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Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

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After a plethora of blowouts during Super Wild Card Weekend, the Divisional Round was much more entertaining. All four games were determined by one score and came down to the wire.

Fortunately for the readers of this column, I nailed all four of my predictions for the Divisional Round. I have now correctly identified the winner of all but one game and am 8-2 against the spread in the postseason! We have netted over a grand in the past two weeks. Let’s keep this hot streak going as we gear up for the Conference Championship

After only one underdog was victorious in the Wild Card Round, three of the four road teams moved onto the Conference Championship this past weekend.

Divisional Round Recap

Despite Derrick Henry’s return to the top-seeded Titans, things couldn’t have started any worse for Tennessee. Ryan Tannehill threw the first of three interceptions on the first play from scrimmage and the Bengals were immediately in scoring position. Tennessee’s defense played well and held the Bengals to a field goal. After taking a 6-0 lead, the Titans tied it up behind a goal-line touchdown from King Henry. However, they failed to convert the two-point conversion. Rookie kicker Evan McPherson nailed a 54-yard kick to give the Bengals a 9-6 lead at the half. To begin the second half, Joe Burrow led Cincinnati down the field before Joe Mixon capped off the drive with a 16-yard touchdown scamper. However, Tennessee scored 10 unanswered points, including a 33-yard touchdown to A.J. Brown. But despite sacking Burrow nine times, the Bengals won the turnover battle. After picking Tannehill off with just 28 seconds to go in the game, Burrow hit Ja’Marr Chase on an absolute dart to the sideline, which set up McPherson’s game-winning 52-yard field goal. The rookie kicker was the player of the game despite strong performances from Mixon, Chase, and Tee Higgins.

After upsetting the Dallas Cowboys, the San Francisco 49ers traveled to Lambeau Field to take on the reigning MVP, Aaron Rodgers, and the Green Bay Packers. After Rodgers led Green Bay down the field on the opening drive, rookie running back A.J. Dillon found the end zone on a six-yard scamper. From then on out, it was a defensive and special teams battle. To end the first half, San Francisco blocked Mason Crosby’s 39-yard field-goal attempt. That wouldn’t be the only critical special teams play of the game. After swapping field goals in the second half, San Francisco blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown to tie the game at 10-10. Although the Niners did next to nothing on offense all day, Jimmy G found a way to get Robbie Gould into field-goal range for a game-winner. He nailed a 45-yard attempt as time expired, upsetting the NFC’s top seed. Davante Adams and Aaron Jones had solid games, but San Francisco’s defense and special teams were tremendous.

Sunday’s games kicked off with what looked to be a blowout. The Rams were in complete control mid-way through the third quarter with a 27-3 lead. However, you can never count out Tom Brady. Brady led three touchdowns drives in the final minutes to tie the game up at 27 with just 46 seconds remaining. However, the Bucs simply could not cover Cooper Kupp. After catching a 70-yard touchdown pass in the first half, Kupp hauled in two massive receptions (20 and 44 yards) to set up a game-winning field goal by Matt Gay. For the third straight game of the weekend, the road underdog was victorious.

Last but not least, we witnessed a game for the ages between the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs. Both quarterbacks were flawless. Patrick Mahomes threw for 378 yards and three touchdowns while adding 69 rushing yards and an additional score. Josh Allen totaled 329 yards through the air, four touchdowns (all to Gabriel Davis), and 68 rushing yards. Down by five points and facing a 4th and 13, Allen threw a dart to a wide-open Davis in the end zone. The Bills then converted a two-point conversion to take a three-point lead. But there was way too much time left on the clock. Mahomes tossed a 64-yard touchdown to Tyreek Hill to take a 33-29 lead with just over a minute remaining. Allen then drove his team 75 yards in 75 seconds to take a 36-33 lead with 13 seconds left. Somehow, Mahomes got Harrison Butker into field-goal range on two intermediate passes to Hill and Travis Kelce. The game went into overtime. How fitting? Unfortunately for Bills fans and bettors, the Chiefs won the coin toss and marched down the field fairly easily. On the eighth play of overtime, Mahomes hit Kelce in the right corner of the end zone, ending Buffalo’s postseason hopes. Sean McDermott’s Bills will be back with a vengeance next season and there is officially a rivalry between Buffalo and Kansas City after this epic contest.

So now that we reviewed this past weekend’s contests, let’s take a look at the upcoming matchups in the Conference Championship, as the Chiefs host the Bengals and the Rams host the 49ers. The spreads have changed slightly, so let’s take a look at the opening lines as well as the current lines.

AFC Conference Championship

Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs (-7)

After each team won their respective games in thrilling fashions in the Divisional Round, bettors will be treated to a Week 17 rematch when the Bengals found a way to defeat the Chiefs, 34-31, on the road. However, Kansas City led 28-17 at the half of that game and it looked like the Chiefs would end up routing Cincinnati before a lackluster second half. Ja’Marr Chase erupted for the most receiving yards in franchise history, the refs made a few horrible calls, and the Chiefs’ offense completely stalled out. I don’t foresee that happening in a playoff atmosphere when everything is on the line.

The Chiefs are the more talented and well-rounded team with more offensive firepower and they arguably have the best quarterback in the NFL. With Patrick Mahomes under center, the Chiefs are 8-2 in the postseason contests. Those two losses occurred against Tom Brady. Although Joe Burrow is becoming one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL, he is not the GOAT. Burrow and his weapons at the wide receiver position will create tons of mismatches against Kansas City’s depleted secondary (especially if Tyrann Mathieu doesn’t play), but the Bengals’ offense can be slowed down by a solid pass rush and zone coverage.

The Chiefs have scored 42 points in back-to-back outings and should have no trouble against a middle-of-the-pack defense after dominating Buffalo’s top-rated defensive unit last week. Kansas City has all of their playmakers back at full strength on the offensive side of the ball and even their running game looked solid against the Bills. Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Jerick McKinnon both should have pivotal roles in the Conference Championship, but the Chiefs are still going to rely on the passing game.

Although the total is a very high number (54.5 points), this is going to be a shootout, so I would suggest taking the over. A whopping 97% of the money thus far on Over / Under bets is on the Over. I’m following the smart money on this one. And despite a full touchdown spread, I wouldn’t be shocked if the Chiefs blew the Bengals out this week. Chiefs win and cover.

  • Pick: Chiefs (-7)
  • Prediction: 37-26
  • Bonus: Over 54.5 Points

NFC Conference Championship

San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams (-3)

The Niners snuck into the postseason after overcoming a 17-point deficit to the Rams in Week 18 and eventually winning in overtime. Kyle Shanahan has beaten Sean McBay six times in a row and San Francisco seems to be the more physical team at the line of scrimmage, though Aaron Donald does make that difficult for San Francisco’s offensive line. Trent Williams’ return to the offensive line will certainly help the Niners’ pass protection and run blocking. Expect Eli Mitchell to get a ton of touches in order to keep the ball out of Stafford’s hands.

Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp have been phenomenal all season long, but the Niners realized that they were even better when facing the blitz. Stafford was the fourth-highest graded quarterback this season when facing blitzes. That’s why he was so effective against the Bucs last week, as Tampa blitzed Stafford a season-high 17 times, including on the game-winning pass to Cooper Kupp that set up Matt Gay’s field goal. Meanwhile, San Francisco managed to get pressure by just rushing four players. They blitzed Stafford a combined 14% in both games this season. Since the Niners are a little weak in the secondary, they have forced Stafford to make tough decisions by dropping linebackers into coverage. That’s the only way to defeat this Rams team and Shanahan knows it.

On offense, Jimmy Garoppolo has been very effective in throwing the ball down the middle of the field against Los Angeles. In their two meetings this season, Jimmy G completed 29-of-36 attempts for 319 yards and three touchdowns over the middle of the field. Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and George Kittle will play pivotal roles in San Francisco’s upset bid.

All that said, the Rams are still the more complete team and their quarterback is far superior to Garoppolo. After losing Robert Woods to a season-ending ACL injury, they signed Odell Beckham Jr., who now has scored six touchdowns since joining the team after failing to find the end zone with Cleveland over the first half of the season. Beckham’s chemistry with Stafford has improved every week and Cooper Kupp remains unstoppable. Nobody in the 49ers’ secondary is going to be able to cover Kupp one-on-one so expect a ton of zone coverage. Still, Kupp should be able to find open space, and when he is double-teamed, Stafford will look for OBJ, Van Jefferson, or Tyler Higbee.

And don’t forget that the Rams did not have Cam Akers in the lineup for the previous two meetings between these two franchises. Akers provides much-needed explosion out of the backfield for the Rams. Although I expect the Niners to cover the spread and make this game a nail-biter, Los Angeles should come out on top if they can avoid costly turnovers.

  • Pick: 49ers (+3)
  • Prediction: 24-23 Rams

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Davante Adams of Green Bay Packers

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Super Wild Card Weekend featured some great games that came down to some riveting finishes.

We also saw our fair share of blowouts. It was a wild beginning to the NFL postseason, specifically the way the Dallas Cowboys were unable to snap the ball before time expired against the San Francisco 49ers. The Niners were the only road team to win in the first week of the playoffs. We went 4-2 with our Best Bets of the week but correctly identified all six winners in their respective matchups.

Super Wild Card Weekend Recap

In the first playoff game of the season, the Cincinnati Bengals snapped their 31-year playoff game drought, as they dispatched the Las Vegas Raiders, 26-19. Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase were absolutely fantastic in their first playoff appearance, connecting nine times for 116 yards. Still, Derek Carr managed to march the Raiders down the field for a final attempt to force overtime. Unfortunately for Raiders' bettors and fans, Carr was picked off by Germaine Pratt with 17 seconds remaining, officially clinching the Bengals’ first playoff victory in 31 years.

The second game this weekend was not nearly as exciting. In what was expected to be a tight game between the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots, Josh Allen dominated from start to finish. The game was over before the second half began, as Buffalo led 27-3 at halftime. Allen had a perfect passing rating after completing 25 of 31 passes for 308 yards and five touchdowns. He additionally turned six carries into 66 rushing yards. And miraculously, he hit nine different receivers in this game. Mac Jones threw two late touchdowns to Kendrick Bourne in garbage time, but the Bills defeated the Patriots, 47-17.

Sunday kicked off with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers smoking the Philadelphia Eagles. Jalen Hurts looked uncomfortable all day as the Bucs’ defense was finally at full strength. Tom Brady tossed two touchdowns, and despite missing Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones, the Buccaneers’ running game was actually pretty solid. Both Ke’Shawn Vaugh and Gio Bernard scored touchdowns. At the end of three quarters, the Bucs led 31-0. Hurts led the Eagles to two late touchdown drives, but it was too little too late. The Bucs moved on easily after defeating Philly, 31-15.

In the most exciting game of the weekend, the San Francisco 49ers pulled off the upset in Dallas. San Francisco dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, Eli Mitchell and Deebo Samuel both had excellent days on the ground, and San Francisco sacked Dak Prescott five times and forced an interception. However, the Cowboys marched back from a 16-point deficit and had an opportunity to win the game on the final drive of the game. With 14 seconds remaining, Prescott took off from midfield and slid at the 33-yard line. Before the Cowboys could get set and spike the ball for a final throw to the end zone, time expired. The Niners won, 23-17.

After a slow start on offense and a defensive touchdown by T.J. Watt that gave Pittsburgh a 7-0 lead, the Kansas City Chiefs got it going in the second quarter. Mahomes tallied over 400 yards and five touchdowns. Even Travis Kelce threw a touchdown of his own. The Chiefs won this game with ease, 49-21. Ben Roethlisberger has likely played his last game in the NFL.

The final game of the Wild Card Round was expected to be a close divisional matchup between the Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams. Instead, the Rams went up 21-0 by the end of the first half and never looked back. Odell Beckham Jr. had a great game and Matthew Stafford did an excellent job protecting the football. It was also great to see Cam Akers playing with some serious burst and speed considering it’s been just six months since he tore his ACL. Meanwhile, Kyler Murray was atrocious in the first playoff game of his career. He threw two interceptions (including one head-scratching desperate heave from his own end zone that resulted in a pick-six). The Cardinals have a talented roster, but without DeAndre Hopkins, they simply imploded late in the season. They will be back with a vengeance next season and for many years to come.

So now that we reviewed this weekend’s contest, let’s take a look at the upcoming matchups in the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs. The spreads have changed in certain games, so let’s take a look at the opening lines as well as the current lines.

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Saturday Divisional Round Picks

Cincinnati Bengals at Tennessee Titans (-3.5)

The Bengals and Titans could not be more different when it comes to their respective offensive identities. The Bengals are a pass-heavy team with a stud quarterback in Joe Burrow and one of the best receiver tandems in the league featuring Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd. Don’t get me wrong, they can absolutely run the ball well too with superstar Joe Mixon, but Zac Taylor will look to exploit Tennessee’s secondary. The Titans allowed 245.2 passing yards per game, the eighth-worst in the NFL. It will be difficult to find any running room for Mixon, as Tennessee permitted just 84.6 rushing yards per game, the second-fewest in the league.

On the other side of the ball, the Titans will attempt to run the ball down Cincinnati’s throats, especially with the triumphant return of Derrick Henry. Henry may not be at full strength, but he is an upgrade over D’Onta Foreman, though Foreman should still get some carries in this matchup. That said, Cincinnati allowed the fifth-fewest rushing yards per game this season. Ryan Tannehill is going to have to air it out so that the offense doesn’t become so predictable. A.J. Brown is a matchup nightmare for the Bengals’ secondary and Julio Jones could serve as a solid red-zone threat after scoring his first touchdown of the season in Week 18.

Last week, I only picked one upset, but this week’s matchups seem much more even. The Titans are a good football team and are incredibly well-coached, however, the Bengals have a much more explosive offense. If Burrow and Chase can perform as they did against the Raiders, I expect Cincinnati to pull off the upset and knock out the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

  • Pick: Bengals (+3.5)
  • Prediction: 27-23 Bengals

San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers (-5.5)

After getting some much-needed rest, the Green Bay Packers will host the red-hot San Francisco 49ers. Although the Niners are in good spirits, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo suffered a minor shoulder injury, and defensive stud Nick Bosa suffered a concussion in San Francisco’s thrilling victory over the Cowboys. Without Bosa, I’m not sure the Niners have much of a chance at defending Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Jones, and Davante Adams. If Bosa is active, an upset isn’t out of the question. The 49ers’ secondary is the weakest unit on their roster. Without Bosa to put pressure on Rodgers, the reigning MVP will have way too much time in the pocket to find his talented receivers.

Kyle Shannahan will continue to do what the Niners do best and that is run the ball. Eli Mitchell and Deebo Samuel should combine for 30 touches in this game. San Francisco will attempt to move the chains and kill some clock to limit the number of possessions that Rodgers gets. Fortunately for San Francisco, the Packers allowed the third-most rushing yards per game this season.

Both offenses should thrive in this game, as each team’s offensive has several matchups to exploit. Davante Adams is going to have a massive game. Don’t be surprised if he catches 10 passes for 150 yards and multiple touchdowns. However, the 49ers are a very physical team, and if they can dominate the line of scrimmage as they did against the Cowboys, they have a shot at upsetting Green Bay at Lambeau Field. With the weather forecast calling for snow, that benefits San Francisco’s style of play, though the Packers are used to playing in cold weather. It may be a bit harder for Rodgers to get the passing game going in these conditions, but he’s a veteran with years of experience in these types of games. While I expect the 49ers to cover the spread, Green Bay will sneak into the Conference Championship by converting a last-second field goal.

  • Pick: 49ers (+5.5)
  • Prediction: 26-24 Packers
  • Bonus: Over 47.5 Points

Sunday Divisional Round Picks

Los Angeles Rams at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3)

The Rams played mistake-free football Monday night against the Arizona Cardinals and now must head to Raymond James Stadium to take on Tom Brady and the reigning Super Bowl champions. Although the Bucs handled the Philadelphia Eagles quite easily, the Rams are a completely different type of foe with one of the best head coaches in the NFL. Los Angeles has defeated Tampa Bay twice over the past two seasons and will look to make it three straight. We all know that the only way to make Tom Brady uncomfortable in the pocket is to pressure him up the middle. Fortunately for the Rams, they have a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, Aaron Donald. Plus, Leonard Floyd and Von Miller will make life difficult for TB12.

Without Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown, Brady performed well against the Eagles. He hit Mike Evans and Rob Gronkowski each for a touchdown. Cameron Brate made a few decent plays, but Tyler Johnson, Breshad Perriman, and Scotty Miller are no match for the Rams’ secondary. Jalen Ramsey will likely shadow Evans, which will force the Bucs to run the ball or throw to their least trustworthy pass catchers. Even if running back Leonard Fournette returns to action, the Rams allowed the sixth-fewest rushing yards per game this season. Something tells me Brady is going to have to play one of his best games to move on in the postseason.

All that said, Matthew Stafford and the Rams’ offense need to show up. We can’t get the inconsistent Rams that we saw towards the end of the regular season. Los Angeles needs to remain balanced on offense, mixing in Cam Akers and Sony Michel, while utilizing Cooper Kupp, Odell Beckham Jr., Tyler Higbee, and Van Jefferson.


Cooper Kupp Cooper Kupp of the Los Angeles RamsGetty Images

Stafford needs to protect the football. Whoever wins the turnover battle in this contest will move on to the NFC Conference Championship.

Although only 50% of the bets on the spread right now are backing the Rams, a whopping 91% of the money has been wagered on Los Angeles covering the three-point handicap. I’m following the smart money and taking the Rams, though I’ll go a bit further and say that Los Angeles upsets Tampa Bay on the road, ending Tom Brady’s hopes of back-to-back Super Bowl titles with the Bucs.

  • Pick: Rams (+3)
  • Prediction: 30-23 Rams

Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs (-2)

This is the matchup that we have all been waiting for. Many pundits expect the winner of this game to win the Super Bowl, myself included. Both Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes were excellent during the Wild Card Round. In fact, Allen actually had a perfect passer rating. Mahomes was close, but he did throw an interception in the first quarter. Each quarterback threw for five touchdowns apiece. They also have some of the best weapons in the league in their respective arsenals. Will Buffalo’s league-best defense be able to limit Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce? That’s the big question.

Last year in the Divisional Round, the Chiefs defeated the Bills in a fairly comfortable fashion. This year’s Buffalo squad is much better than it was last year with the improvement of Devin Singletary, Gabriel Davis, Dawson Knox, and Isaiah McKenzie, plus the addition of Emmanuel Sanders. And don’t forget Stefon Diggs. This offense has some serious firepower and the defense has shut down opponents all year long.

If Buffalo’s defensive line can out-work Kansas City’s offensive line, Mahomes could be scrambling for his life, much as he did in last year’s Super Bowl. That’s clearly the recipe to success against this high-powered Chiefs offense. If this game were being played in Buffalo, I am convinced that Josh Allen would lead the Bills to victory. However, playing at Arrowhead is no easy task. Kansas City’s fans will make things difficult for Buffalo’s offensive line. And although the Chiefs have improved through the year on defense, Buffalo has too many skill players to cover on any given down. This is going to be an absolute shoot-out. Buffalo is more well-rounded, but if their defense doesn’t get to Mahomes, the Chiefs will light up the scoreboard just as they did against the Steelers last week.

Overall, this is a bit of a coin flip. I don’t love betting on this game as both teams deserve to move onto the Conference Championship, but if I had a gun to my head, I have to go with Mahomes and the Chiefs.

  • Pick: Chiefs (-2)
  • Prediction: 34-31
  • Bonus: Over 55 Points

Tom Brady

Boston Globe

Following the first 18-week regular season in NFL history, the playoff matchups are now set for Super Wild Card Weekend.

The opening round will take place over three days, with the Tennessee Titans and Green Bay Packers out of action until the Divisional Round after earning the No. 1 seed in their respective conferences. The Las Vegas Raiders (after winning perhaps the most exciting game of the regular season in the very last game on Week 18) will head to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals on Saturday. Following that game, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots will face division rivals, the Buffalo Bills, Saturday night. There are three games on Sunday’s slate, as the Philadelphia Eagles will visit Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to kick off the action on Sunday. The biggest underdogs of the first round, the Pittsburgh Steelers, head to Arrow Head to take on Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. The Dallas Cowboys host the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday as well. The Wild Card Round wraps up with the Arizona Cardinals heading to Los Angeles to face Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, and the Rams’ high-powered offense on Monday night.

The spreads have changed in certain games, so let’s take a look at the opening lines as well as the current lines.

Our new Public Betting Splits page is available to Edge+ subscribers! Follow the “smart money” to cash in on your picks! Monitoring public betting trends is one of the most pivotal tools used by professional handicappers to find the top wagers in the sports betting marketplace. For access to more content and premium features, take a look at our memberships page.

Saturday Wild Card Picks

Las Vegas Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals (-5.5)

This game opened at a 6.5 point spread, but it has dropped a point due to a significant amount of the early action backing the Raiders. The Bengals are at home and are clearly the better team, so this seems like the right number.

The Bengals will be rested after most of their key players sat out their Week 18 loss to the Cleveland Browns. This includes quarterback Joe Burrow and star running back Joe Mixon. The Bengals are very inexperienced and all of their skill players are very inexperienced, especially in the postseason. That said, Cincinnati is the more talented team of the two. In his last two starts, Burrow accumulated 971 passing yards, eight touchdowns, and zero interceptions. He is on an absolute role. Not to mention, rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase was the AFC’s leader in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. Chase broke Chad Johnson’s franchise record by producing 266 receiving yards in a single game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 17. Cincinnati’s victory over the Chiefs certainly gives them confidence against a much less talented Raiders squad.

Joe Burrow of Cincinnati Bengals Joe BurrowGetty Images

The one thing we can fully bank on is that the Bengals are going to score plenty of points. Cincinnati ranked seventh in the NFL with 27.1 points per game this season. Will Las Vegas be able to match the Bengals’ offensive output? The Raiders were very inconsistent on offense this season. Their 22 points per game ranked 18th in the NFL. It’s hard to envision Derek Carr leading Vegas to another 30-point output, but then again, anything can happen on any given Sunday.

The Raiders are riding high after their amazing overtime victory over the Los Angeles Chargers, simultaneously knocking the Chargers out of the postseason and clinching a playoff berth for themselves in the process. However, the Raiders are an extremely tough team to judge on a weekly basis. We have not seen solid outputs from the running game lately (outside of Week 18) and Derek Carr was good this season, but not great. Vegas will need to get Josh Jacobs going if they have any chance at pulling off this upset. And Darren Waller needs to be much more involved than he was in his first game back from injury against the Chargers. Now that he has one game under his belt, Waller should be the focal point of the Raiders’ passing attack.

These two teams are very close in terms of talent and the Raiders’ defense has improved drastically throughout the season. Max Crosby was unstoppable in Week 18 (two sacks) and pressured Justin Herbert all night long. If the Raiders can make Burrow uncomfortable in the pocket, they have a shot. Overall, I expect this game to be very tight. While I think the home favorites hold on, 73% of the money bet on this game’s spread are backing the Raiders. I’m following the “smart money” in this instance.

  • Pick: Raiders (+5.5)
  • Prediction: 27-23 Bengals

New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills (-4)

After falling flat against the Miami Dolphins in the final week of the regular season, the Patriots have a sour taste in their mouths as they prepare for their third meeting with the Buffalo Bills this season. In their previous two meetings this season, the teams went 1-1 against one another.

When the weather wasn’t much of a factor, the Bills’ offense moved as a cohesive unit. Josh Allen threw for 314 passing yards and three touchdowns while chipping in with 64 rushing yards. The Bills defeated the Patriots comfortably, 33-21 in Week 16. However, back in Week 13, the Patriots handled business on the road, allowing Mac Jones to only attempt three passes. The Pats ran the ball down Buffalo’s throats behind Damien Harris and rookie Rhamondre Stevenson. They won 14-10.

The weather is expected to be quite cold in Buffalo with the potential of snow and strong winds. If the weather is severe, I’d give the edge to the Pats. However, if there is not too much wind, expect Josh Allen to dominate. Overall, I would wait to see the exact weather forecast before placing a wager on this game. But with a gun to my head, it’s difficult not to back the uberly talented Bills.

Buffalo is one of the most pass-heavy teams in the league and Stefon Diggs is a top-five receiver in the NFL. However, in the Bills’ Week 16 victory over the Pats, it was Isaiah McKenzie who led the team with 11 receptions for 125 yards and a trip to the end zone. Diggs wasn’t too far behind him with seven catches for 85 yards and a touchdown. And they won that game without the services of Gabriel Davis, who has really stepped up late in the season. Plus, Buffalo has Emmanuel Sanders, Cole Beasley, and tight end Dawson Knox in their arsenal of weapons.

New England’s defense is elite but Buffalo was even better. This game features the top two defenses in the NFL. Considering Buffalo is at home, I have to give them the edge, though I do not expect them to cover the spread. I’m anticipating a late drive by Josh Allen that leads to a game-winning field goal by Tyler Bass.

Bonus: Although only 41% of bets are on the Under, 98% of the money is backing the Under. With the two best defenses going up against one another, I’ll ride the Under as well and you should too.

  • Pick: Patriots (+4)
  • Prediction: 20-17 Bills
  • Bonus: Under 43.5 points

Sunday Wild Card Picks

Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-8.5)

Although the Bucs are missing stand-out wide receiver Chris Godwin and the franchise’s release of Antonio Brown, the NFC’s No. 2 seed will smoke the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.

The Bucs won their last three games of the season despite missing several key players. Aside from Godwin and Brown, Tampa was missing the services of lead running back Leonard Fournette, who should be good to go in the first round of the playoffs. Key defensive players, Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul are also expected to be activated ahead of this week’s key postseason contest against Philly.

In Week 8 of the regular season, Fournette dominated Philadelphia’s defensive line. He totaled 127 yards and two touchdowns. Fournette was also pivotal in Tampa’s Super Bowl run last year, earning the nickname “Playoff Lenny,” as he has averaged over 100 all-purpose yards in seven career playoff games. Not to mention, Barrett and Pierre-Paul combined for 1.5 sacks and three tackles for loss on Jalen Hurts in the last meeting between these two organizations.

The Bucs are at home at Raymond James Stadium and have the greatest quarterback under center of all time. Despite missing Godwin and AB, Mike Evans should be healthy and Rob Gronkowski will likely play a pivotal role in Tampa’s aerial attack. Brady owns almost every single postseason record while Jalen Hurts is making his playoff debut for the Eagles.

While I wouldn’t call this game a blowout, I anticipate the Bucs winning this game by two possessions. Scotty Miller, Cyril Grayson, and Tyler Johnson will have to step up at the wide receiver position with so many of Tampa’s pass-catchers no longer available, but the Bucs should have no problem putting up points against a mediocre defense.

Although the Bucs run defense has struggled in recent weeks, allowing five 100-yard rushing games over the last seven weeks, they were missing important pieces of the defense. With just about the entire defense healthy now, I expect Tampa to return to their elite status as one of the top rushing defenses in the league.

The Eagles’ game script will likely be very run-dependent, so this will be a matchup to watch. With JPP and Barett back in action, I’m not expecting the three-headed committee of Miles Sanders, Jordan Howard, and Boston Scott to do anything substantial on the ground, forcing Hurts to resort to the passing game. Outside of rookie DeVonta Smith, Philadelphia lacks any serious weapons in the passing game.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Philly keeps this game close through three quarters, but Brady and the Bucs will pull away in the fourth quarter. They will win by double-digits against the inferior Eagles, who snuck into the postseason with a 9-8 record.

Bonus: Although only 62% of the bets are on the over, a whopping 99% of the money placed on Over/Under bets expects this game to produce more than 49 points. I’m following the “smart money” in this situation and I suggest you do the same.

  • Pick: Buccaneers (-8.5)
  • Prediction: 31-20 Bucs
  • Bonus: Over 49 points

San Francisco 49ers at Dallas Cowboys (-3)

This is the matchup I am most looking forward to and it is the only game in which I expect the underdog to pull off a road upset. The 49ers just squeaked into the postseason after an extraordinary 17-point comeback against the Los Angeles Rams that resulted in a thrilling overtime victory. The Niners have a ton of momentum heading into the playoffs. However, Dallas got into a groove as well in Week 18.

Despite playing against Philadelphia’s backups, Dak Prescott threw five touchdown passes (four in the first half) and became the franchise’s top touchdown passer in a single season. You would think Troy Aikman or Tony Romo would hold that record, but it now belongs to Prescott. Although Dallas lost Michael Gallup for the rest of the season, Dallas played one of its most complete games in the final game of the season. Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb did their thing, but it was Cedrick Wilson who proved he can step up in Gallup’s absence. He finished with 100+ receiving yards and two touchdowns. The Cowboys’ passing game seems to be at a high point, however, the running game with Ezekiel Elliott remains somewhat stagnant.

San Francisco employs an incredibly run-heavy offense, featuring rookie running back Elijah Mitchell and speedy wideout Deebo Samuel. Dallas isn’t exactly stout defending the run, as they allow 4.5 yards per carry, the 23rd-worst in the NFL. The Cowboys have allowed 100 or more rushing yards in 11 of their previous 12 outings. Although the Niners will run the ball a lot, Jimmy G has looked great as of late, leading San Francisco to their come-from-behind victory over the Rams in Week 18. Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and George Kittle will certainly see plenty of targets, as Aaron Donald and the Rams defensive line will attempt to force Garroppolo to beat them via the pass. That won't be an easy task with Jalen Ramsey in the secondary. However, Aiyuk has made tremendous strides since the beginning of the season and Kittle is the second-best tight end in the league behind Travis Kelce.

San Francisco has also been very good on defense this season, though their secondary is exploitable. That said, the Niners have not permitted 300 total yards in four straight contests and have held opponents to less than 25 points in five consecutive games.

This matchup comes down to whether or not the 49ers can prevent the Cowboys from putting up 30 points. If the Niners can get pressure on Prescott, I believe they will be the only team to pull off an upset on Super Wild Card Weekend.

  • Pick: 49ers (+3)
  • Prediction: 24-23 49ers

Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs (-12.5)

Despite missing out on the No. 1 seed in the AFC, Kansas City gets a favorable matchup at home against the mediocre Pittsburgh Steelers. In Week 16, the Chiefs absolutely blew out the Steelers, 36-10, behind three touchdown passes from Patrick Mahomes. Travis Kelce didn’t even play that game and Tyreek Hill managed just two receptions for a measly two yards. Something tells me that Kelce and Hill will play big roles in the Wild Card Round.

Although Kansas City isn’t playing flawless football, they are arguably the best team in the AFC. The offense is probably the best in the league and their defense has made improvements throughout the season.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh just squeaked into the playoffs by defeating the Baltimore Ravens in overtime in Week 18. It took overtime to beat a team missing former MVP, Lamer Jackson. Ben Roethlisberger is no longer the quarterback he once was and the Steelers’ only hope of keeping this game respectable is Najee Harris. The rookie running back is very skilled in running between the tackles and catching passes out of the backfield. He was the lone bright spot for Pittsburgh in the previous meeting between these two franchises, as Harris totaled 110 yards from scrimmage.

Despite a significant spread for a playoff game, I fully expect Mahomes and company to crush the Steelers. Kansas City rolls easily in this one.

  • Pick: Chiefs (-12.5)
  • Prediction: 34-17 Chiefs

Monday Wild Card Pick

Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams (-4)

Bettors will be treated to a divisional rematch on Monday night. Both the Cardinals and Rams started to trail off towards the end of the season. The Cardinals were in a position to get the top seed in the NFC before a brutal second half of the season. Arizona ended the year by losing to the Seattle Seahawks. However, Los Angeles is also coming off a heartbreaking loss to the Niners.

When the Cardinals and Rams have played this season, they have combined for 110 points. So expect another high-scoring affair in this one. In their last meeting in Week 14, the Rams defeated the Cardinals on the road, 30-23. Stafford was practically flawless and Kyler Murray was pretty dreadful, with two interceptions and no touchdowns.

Both of these quarterbacks are mistake-prone. Stafford was in the early MVP talks before committing a ton of head-scratching turnovers in the second half of the season, including several pick-sixes. Murray hasn’t been the same without DeAndre Hopkins on the field. And unfortunately for the Cardinals, there is a chance that James Conner won’t be able to suit up after sustaining a rib injury in the final week of the season after a two-game absence.

The Rams have not been the same team since Robert Woods suffered his season-ending injury. Odell Beckham Jr. has played decently, but he isn’t the same playmaker that Woods is and he certainly doesn’t have the same chemistry with Stafford. However, Cooper Kupp is practically unstoppable. He is going to have another huge outing. In their last meeting, Kupp hauled in 13 receptions for 123 yards and a touchdown. Expect a similar output for Kupp on Monday night.

This is a bit of a toss-up but the Rams are the more talented team on both sides of the football, just slightly. I’d be more comfortable taking them if the spread dropped to three points, but I still think the Rams will cover.

  • Pick: Rams (-4)
  • Prediction: 33-27 Rams
  • Bonus: Over 49.5 points

Tyreek Hill

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It’s the final week of the regular season, so before the NFL Playoffs begin, let’s nail some picks and head into the postseason with some extra cash to wager on the most exciting games of the year.

This season, we converted 62.5% of our Best Bets, which is an unheard-of percentage. The most successful sports bettors only get about 60% of their bets correct. It is simply unrealistic to think that you are going to win at a higher rate than that. Of course, there will be good days and bad days, but it is important to trust your process and remain diligent. And especially when you are just getting your feet wet in the sports betting world, it’s important to temper your expectations. Sports betting is not a quick money-making scheme. It is not realistic to expect a small deposit will turn into life-changing winnings. The most successful gamblers know that the only way to be profitable over a long period of time is to increase your bankroll in small increments.

With the regular season coming to a finish, there are no games this week on Thursday. There are two games on Saturday – the Kansas City Chiefs at the Denver Broncos followed by the Dallas Cowboys at the Philadelphia Eagles. In Week 18, no Monday night game will be played. The rest of this week’s games will be played on Sunday, concluding with a primetime matchup on Sunday Night Football between the Los Angeles Chargers at the Las Vegas Raiders. That game will have tons of playoff implications.

The postseason picture has become a whole lot clearer in recent weeks. 11 of the 14 playoff berths have already been clinched. The Green Bay Packers have locked down the top seed in the NFC, so they may not play their starters the entire game in Week 18 against the Detroit Lions, despite Matt Lafleur stating the opposite. The Titans will clinch a bye and the top seed in the AFC if they defeat the Houston Texans on Sunday. Tempers will be incredibly high for teams jockeying for playoff seeding, and particularly for teams attempting to clinch one of the three final playoff spots remaining (two in the AFC and one in the NFC).

And with that, it’s time to gear up for this week’s edition of NFL best bets. It takes a lot of energy and research to have success over the course of a season when it comes to sports betting. Here at FantasySP, we are committed to helping you cash. Remember, if you win 55% of your bets, you are a really good gambler. We are looking at some eye-opening odds this week and will help you decipher the best games to place your money on, whether it’s against-the-spread picks, moneylines, over-unders, or prop bets. With that, let’s dive in.

WEEK 18 NFL BEST BETS

Kansas City Chiefs (-10.5) at Denver Broncos

Although the Chiefs perhaps blew their opportunity to win the top seed in the AFC by losing a heartbreaker to the Cincinnati Bengals last week, Kansas City can still earn a first-round bye and the No. 1 seed in their conference. They must win this game and hope that the Tennessee Titans somehow lose to the Houston Texans.

Last week, the Chiefs’ offense performed despite the absence of Clyde Edwards-Helaire and underwhelming performances from Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. Still, Kansas City posted 31 points. It was the defense and some costly (and controversial penalties) that cost them the game. Kansas City’s defense has been on the rise prior to Week 17 and will get back on track against a Denver Broncos offense that has struggled to move the chains with Drew Lock under center. Lock has been unable to take advantage of some decent weapons in Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick, and Noah Fant. Although Jeudy and Patrick missed Week 17 due to COVID-19, the Broncos didn’t score a touchdown until the final minutes of their loss to the Chargers in garbage time. Lock is one of the worst quarterbacks in the league and it’s tough to envision the Broncos putting up more than 20 points in this game. Even Denver’s strong suit, their running game, has gone cold in recent weeks. Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams combined for just 73 rushing yards and zero touchdowns on 24 carries against an abysmal Chargers run defense.

Meanwhile, Mahomes has the best weapons in the league and has done an excellent job utilizing Darrell Williams out of the backfield. The Chiefs should roll in this one and dominate a Broncos team that has been officially eliminated from the playoffs. Kansas City will have no problem covering the spread despite playing on the road in Week 18.

  • Pick: Chiefs (-10.5)
  • Prediction: 30-16 Chiefs

San Francisco 49ers (+4.5) at Los Angeles Rams

San Francisco needs this victory to get into the playoffs while the Rams need this game to clinch the division over the Arizona Cardinals. This is probably the most interesting NFC matchup on the Week 18 slate. Under Kyle Shanahan, the Niners have gotten the best of Sean McVay’s Rams in recent meetings, including a 31-10 Week 10 blowout earlier this season. However, the 49ers won the first meeting with Jimmy G under center, but there is a decent chance rookie Trey Lance will be under center in the rematch.

Lance struggled to get it going early last week but finished strong against the Texans. He made some huge throws and moved the chains with his legs when needed. That said, the Rams defense is much better than Houston’s defensive unit. Aaron Donald and Leonard Floyd will provide pressure like Lance has never seen before, and the Rams’ secondary featuring Jalen Ramsey will make things a lot more difficult for the rookie quarterback.

San Francisco will attempt to utilize their run-heavy approach, but Donald and the rest of the Rams will do a good job at limiting the Niners’ success on the ground. On the other side of the ball, Matthew Stafford has struggled with turnovers recently, but San Francisco has one of the worst secondaries in the league. Cooper Kupp will have a massive day, and it doesn’t hurt that Stafford and Odell Beckham are starting to link up for touchdowns on a weekly basis. Stafford is going to pick apart this secondary. And although the Niners have a stout rushing defense themselves, Sony Michel has done an excellent job since Darrell Henderson went down with an injury. Although the game plan will call for more passing plays than running plays, I still think Michel will have some success.

Both teams are 8-8 ATS this season, however, San Francisco failed to cover the one time they were road underdogs earlier this season. Meanwhile, Los Angeles is 3-3 ATS as home favorites.

Overall, I think San Francisco’s secondary is not strong enough to stop Stafford and his elite wide receiver corps. And Trey Lance has struggled to get superstar tight end George Kittle involved in the offense. Expect a hard-fought battle, with the Rams eventually getting the victory and clinching the NFC West. Although 61% of the bets ATS are on the Niners, a whopping 86% of the money is backing the Rams. In this scenario, it is a good idea to follow the “smart money.”

  • Pick: Rams (-4.5)
  • Prediction: 27-20 Rams

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Los Angeles Chargers (-3) at Las Vegas Raiders

The final game of the week will be a thriller. This is essentially a playoff game. The winner will earn a postseason berth and the loser will be watching the playoffs from home. Many didn’t expect the Raiders to be in this position, but they played a great game in Week 17, defeating the Indianapolis Colts on the road, largely behind their defense. Derek Carr has done well this season, particularly since he has been missing superstar tight end, Darren Waller, for the last month. Hunter Renfrow has come through in the clutch. Not only did he catch a touchdown last week, but he also made a great play in the late stages of last week’s game to set up Daniel Carlson’s game-winning field goal as time expired. The Raiders are now in a position to somehow earn a wild-card berth.

After losing to the Texans in an embarrassing fashion in Week 16, the Chargers got back on track behind Justin Herbert and some pretty excellent defense against the Broncos in Week 17. Although the Chargers are on the road in Week 18, the offensive weapons around Herbert featuring Austin Ekeler, Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and tight end Jared Cook, should provide tons of matchup problems for the Vegas defense. Although the Chargers are 0-2 as road favorites this season with a 13.5-point average deficit, Los Angeles should take care of business and clinch a spot in the postseason. Don’t expect a blowout, but I do anticipate them covering the minimal spread.

Additionally, both defenses are very exploitable, so expect a high-scoring affair. I think this game should easily produce 50+ total points.

  • Pick: Chargers (-3)
  • Prediction: 30-24 Chargers
  • Bonus: Over 49.5 points

Dallas Cowboys (-5) at Philadelphia Eagles

Both NFC East teams have already clinched a playoff berth, however, the specific seeds in the NFC are still at stake. Dallas has a chance to earn the No. 2 seed in the NFC if they win and the Buccaneers and Rams suffer losses. The chances of that happening are pretty unlikely, so Dallas needs to be careful in who they suit up for this game. They already clinched the division so at the very worst, they will be the No. 4 seed. However, home-field advantage in any playoff game is very beneficial, so something tells me that Dak Prescott will start this game while the organization watches the scoreboard. If Dallas has no chance at moving up in the standings, Prescott may be benched. The Cowboys already lost wideout Michael Gallup for the season last week, and they don’t want to risk losing any other pivotal players.

The Eagles are currently the No. 7 seed in the NFC and the best they can do is finish as the No. 6 seed. There’s a good chance that Philadelphia rests Jalen Hurts for at least part of the game. Not to mention, Philly has a ton of players with COVID-19, so we should see several rested players on both sides of the ball.

The Cowboys are tied with the Packers for the best ATS record this season (12-4) while the Eagles are 8-7-1 ATS. Earlier this week, Jerry Jones hinted that the Cowboys will play to win. Although their running game has not looked great as of late with Ezekiel Elliott struggling immensely, this would be a good opportunity to get Zeke and Tony Pollard going ahead of the postseason. Plus, Dallas needs to get used to executing the offense without Michael Gallup.

I think it is more likely that Dallas plays their starters while Philadelphia rests a major group of their most important players. Don’t be surprised to see Gardner Minshew under center rather than Hurts. For this reason, I’m taking Dallas.

  • Pick: Cowboys (-5)
  • Prediction: 24-17 Cowboys

Carolina Panthers (+8) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Panthers are an absolute mess and will be starting Sam Darnold on Sunday. Their offensive line has been atrocious, giving absolutely no room for rookie Chuba Hubbard to find any holes. Not to mention, Tampa has one of the best run defenses in the NFL. The Bucs will dominate the trenches just as they did in the last meeting between these two teams in Week 16 when Brady led the Bucs to a 32-6 victory.

Carolina has the second-worst ATS record (5-11) in the NFL. Since the Bucs are still fighting for playoff positioning, Brady should play most (if not all) of this game. With Chris Godwin out for the season and Antonio Brown recently released, Brady will need to continue to establish a rapport with the rest of the wide receivers on the roster.

Expect the Buccaneers’ defense to turn in a strong outing against a Carolina offense that is prone to turning the ball over. I anticipate the Bucs leaning on their defense and the running game to get the victory. Tampa Bay has already clinched the division, but if they lose and the San Francisco 49ers win, the Bucs would have to face a team that nobody wants to see in the first round of the postseason. However, if the Bucs are victorious, they may be able to avoid the Niners in the wild-card round. That’s why I expect the Bucs to go all out to get the victory, as they would earn the No. 2 seed in the conference with a win and a Rams loss.

  • Pick: Bucs (-8)
  • Prediction: 30-17 Bucs

Top Week 18 NFL Player Props

Note: Keep in mind that not all player props have been released. These are the top five player props that have been released at the time of this publication.

  • Cooper Kupp Under 136.5 receiving yards (-115)
  • Deebo Samuel Over 47.5 receiving yards (-115)
  • Tyreek Hill Over 62.5 receiving yards (-110)
  • Josh Jacobs Over 55.5 rushing yards (-110)
  • Patrick Mahomes Over 268.5 passing yards (-110)