Since Thanksgiving weekend I have put most of my focus on college football from a content perspective. I wanted to keep most of my writing about Championship Weekend, Bowl SZN, and the CFP but now… it’s all about the NFL for the next 5 weeks. Despite not having as much written content about the NFL, I’ve still been giving out my picks on Action and Twitter and it’s actually been a red hot month of NFL betting to head into the playoffs. I can’t wait, so let’s just get into it.
NFL YTD: 110-94-5 (53.9%) +10.53u
Wildcard Weekend Trends
I’ll start with just some general thoughts on wildcard weekend before breaking down each game. It’s a weekend that has traditionally been dominated by dogs and unders. There are multiple reasons as to why that’s the case- one, since there are now only 6 games (and they’re all huge) the public is way more involved in each game than they are during the regular season. The public loves overs and favorites, so books can slightly inflate the totals and spreads knowing public money will come in on those sides anyways. Secondly, if you’re a team like the Chiefs, you know they can play mediocre football and still get a W at home against the Steelers, whereas the Steelers need to play the perfect game to beat the Chiefs outright. The Chiefs are much more concerned with their long term goal of winning the whole thing and probably will try not to “show too much” unless they really need to. With totals, teams are naturally more cagey in these big games and some teams like the Chiefs don’t want to open the playbook all the way while some teams just want to play mistake-free and not blow the game on one huge negative play. That leads to totals going under more often than not.
Since 2017, NFL underdogs are 15-3 ATS in the Wildcard Round and are an insane 10-8 SU. More specifically, road dogs are on a 14-2 ATS run in the Wildcard Round (no home teams are dogs this year so that applies to every dog). When it comes to the total, unders are currently on a run of hitting at a 66% clip over the past few seasons.
One other factor to look out for is rematches in the playoffs. It’s not uncommon to see teams that played in the regular season rematch in the postseason, but this year it is particularly prevalent- the 49ers and Cowboys are the only one of the six matchups that is not a rematch from the regular season. Cardinals/Rams and Pats/Bills are both divisional matchups and both matchups split in the regular season (and oddly enough the road teams won in both games for both divisions). In the other 3 matchups, the current favorites (Bengals, Bucs, Chiefs) all won the regular season matchup. Historically, non-divisional opponents that rematch in the playoffs have seen the loser of the regular season matchup (Raiders, Eagles, Steelers) cover at a 60% clip since 2005.
Raiders @ Bengals (-5.5) o/u 48.5
This is the weirdest matchup of the first round, in my opinion. Both of these teams have been Jekyll & Hyde all season. The Bengals have lost to the Bears, Jets, and Browns (x2) but have beaten the Chiefs and swept both the Steelers and Ravens. Meanwhile, the Raiders have lost to the WFT, the Giants, and Bears but have beaten the Ravens, Steelers, Cowboys, Eagles, and Colts. One tidbit about the Raiders is that they have scraped by to this spot. Seven of their ten wins have come by six points or less and FOUR of their ten wins came in OT. 40% of their wins were in overtime… that’s absurd. This team has gotten very fortunate all year and I might go down as a loser but I just refuse to believe in this team.
Joe Burrow has the swagger and confidence needed to win in the playoffs and I really think this offense will just be too much for the Raiders, as they were in the regular season matchup where the Bengals trounced the Raiders 32-13 in Vegas. In that game, Joe Mixon was the star of the show as I think he will be again against this porous Raiders run D. The Raiders best player on either side of the ball is probably Maxx Crosby and the best way to neutralize his pass-rushing ability is just to pound that rock.
When it comes to the Raiders offense, I do question how they will perform outdoors in the cold weather in Cincy. It’s supposed to be 31 degrees at kickoff and will only get colder as the sun goes down. As a dome team that also happened to play a couple of dome teams on the road, the Raiders don’t have a ton of experience in the cold. This year their only two games in true cold weather (outdoor away games late in the year) were against the Browns and Chiefs- they averaged 12.2 PPG in those two matchups. In outdoor games in general, the Raiders are only averaging 19 PPG compared to the 23.5 PPG they average indoors.
I’m honestly too scared to lay it just because the Raiders have played so many one-possession games this year but I think variance finally catches up to them and the Bengals take care of business and win their first playoff game since 1991. #BelieveInBurrow
Pick: CIN in a MLP (see full card for mine)
Patriots @ Bills (-4.5) o/u 44
I like the Bills here. The first matchup between these two teams came in the windiest game of all time that totally changed how the game could be played and played perfectly into the hands of the Patriots as the team with the better run game. It was much different the second time around when Josh Allen threw for 314 yards and 3 TDs and Mac Jones actually had to throw and finished with a statline of 14/32, 145 yards, 0 TDs, and 2 INTs. This Bills defense is underrated (they are a top-5 D in the league but it’s Allen and Diggs that get most attention nationally) and I think they will make Mac Jones’ life hell in the rematch here. A rookie QB has not won a playoff game since Russell Wilson in 2012 and I don’t see that changing here.
Pick: 1.5u Bills -3.5 (like this still at 4, at 4.5… don’t like it as much, find a 4)
Eagles @ Bucs (-8.5) o/u 45.5
Another regular season rematch here- the Bucs beat the Eagles 28-22 in Week 6 in a game that sent the Eagles record to 2-4 and had the great people of Philadelphia very worried about their QB and new HC. However, Nick Siriani did a great job of turning this team around and he is the only rookie HC to have made the playoffs this year. I like this Eagles team a lot and backed them a ton throughout the year. They were on fire the second half of the season but they did play a much weaker schedule. I really want to like the Eagles catching over a TD here but this is the one stat that gives me pause, here is the list of QBs the Eagles have beaten this year: Taylor Heinicke, Mike Glennon/Jake Fromm, Garrett Gilbert, Zach Wilson, Trevor Siemian, Teddy Bridgewater, Jared Goff, Sam Darnold, and Matt Ryan. Those guys are not as good as MVP favorite Tom Brady.
One positive for the Birds is the health of the Bucs offense. Antonio Brown is off the team, Chris Godwin is out for the year, Mike Evans will play but has a lingering injury, Ronald Jones is OUT, Cyril Grayson is OUT, and Gronk’s body has to be falling apart. I think the Bucs will lean on their defense to carry the load as they did in the regular season matchup against these Eagles and this game will be low scoring. One final fun note (with no real correlation) is that Tom Brady is 0-5 ATS in the playoffs in his career including losing 3 Super Bowls outright to the NFC East (one to the Eagles) and not covering a similar number against the WFT last year in the Wildcard Round.
Picks: 1u 1H u23.5, Bucs in a MLP (see full card), Eagles teased to +14.5 (see full card)
49ers @ Cowboys (-3) o/u 51
Here we go 9ers. They were by far my biggest position of Week 18 and it looked rough at the half but they really turned it on in the 2H and earned this playoff spot. They should be coming in with a shit ton of positive momentum whereas the Cowboys have been less than stellar (particularly on offense) down the stretch. Dak doesn’t seem as crisp as he was earlier in the year and they insist on feeding Ezekiel Elliott, who stinks. The Cowboys also really struggle against the run and Shanny’s creative schemes with Mitchell and Deebo should have Dan Quinn in hell. Shanny is also great in these spots- he is 16-9 ATS as a road dog and as a starting QB, Jimmy G is an insane 13-4 ATS as a dog and 12-5 SU as a dog! The Cowboys have also not really beaten any great teams this year. They have a 3-4 record against playoff teams and those 3 wins were against the early season Eagles that were not the same team they are now, the Eagles backups they played in Week 18, and the early season Patriots (also not the same team as late) in OT (a game they should have lost multiple times). I think the 49ers win this game outright.
Picks: 1.5u 49ers +3, 49ers in a teaser (see full card)
Steelers @ Chiefs (-13) o/u 46
One last ride with Ben, Tomlin the underdog GOAT, and the Steelers team of destiny vibes after that Chargers/Raiders game has me feeling gross here… I am backing the Steelers. We have seen the Chiefs come out slow and struggle in some of these playoff matchups against inferior opponents and Tomlin is the GOAT of these spots. As an underdog, Tomlin is a career 47-25-3 ATS (65.3%) and the Steelers are the only team in the NFL with a winning record as underdogs over that stretch (38-37). I also think the Chiefs will be pretty cagey and not want to show too much against a team they know they can beat. It’s still Reid and Mahomes but I think they’ll be as conservative as possible. The Chiefs will also be without CHE which makes them *slightly* easier to game plan against. This is purely a gut, Tomlin spot but I don’t love it.
1u Steelers +12.5, 0.5u Steelers 1H +7, Chiefs in a MLP (see full card)
Cardinals @ Rams (-4) o/u 49.5
This is another tough cap between two teams that know each other so well but I am rolling with Kliff here. I am honestly turning into a McVay hater and think he is a fraud +EV coach. Kliff isn’t a great in-game coach by any means but I have more faith in him than McVay at this point to make the big call to go for it on a key 4th down instead of kicking/punting. Also, Kyler is the much better QB at this point in the season. I think he will give the Rams issues whereas Stafford has been pretty bad down the stretch. Kyler is the type of guy I love on the big stage and I think he has a huge day in his first career playoff game. Stafford on the other hand is a guy that folds under pressure in my mind and that’s what this cap really comes down to for me.
Pick: 1.5u Cardinals +4
That’s it! Here’s the full card:
1.5u Chiefs, Bucs, Bengals MLP
1.5u Bills -3.5
1u Eagles/TB 1H u23.5
1.5u Eagles +14.5/49ers +9 teaser
1.5u SF +3
1u Steelers +12.5
0.5u PIT 1H +7
1.5u ARI +4
(Also look to get the Bills into a MLP somehow, I did with a cross-sporter)
Best of luck! Let’s crush this round!