Super Wild Card Best Bets: Picks, Predictions & Odds To Consider
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.
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Saturday Wild Card Picks
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 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
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
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
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
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
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