NFL Wild Card Best Bets: Expert Picks & Predictions For Saturday & Sunday (1/13/24-1/14/24)

Find NFL Wild Card Weekend best bets and expert picks for the weekend slate here, featuring analysis of Browns vs. Texans, Packers vs. Cowboys, and Rams vs. Lions.

NFL Wild Card Weekend Best Bets

The NFL Playoffs have arrived, and we’re getting things started with a loaded Super Wild Card Weekend full of exciting games. In this article, you can find best bets for games throughout the weekend. Our staff also gives an in-depth breakdown every Wild Card Weekend game on our Lineups YouTube page with game picks and player props. Let’s get to work.

Jacob Wayne’s Record: 29-21-1 (+6.9 units)
Kody Malstrom’s Record: 21-13 (+6.8 units)
Will Schwartz’s Record: 17-25-1 (-9.6 units)

Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys

Jordan Love has arrived. After a slow start to his debut season as the starter, Love has been a top five quarterback in the NFL over the second half of the season with 21 touchdowns to just three interceptions. Check out the massive difference between his numbers from the first to second half of the year:

  • Week 1-8: 17th in adjusted EPA/play, 24th in success rate, 24th in PFF passing grade, 35th in adjusted completion rate
  • Week 9-18: 3rd in adjusted EPA/play, 4th in success rate, 2nd in PFF passing grade, 9th in adjusted completion rate

That second half surge is particularly impressive given all of the injuries the Packers have dealt with on offense, but they appear to be fully healthy now. In particular, Aaron Jones averaged 135 total yards over the final three games of the regular season while wide receiver Christian Watson is poised to return this week. The last time he played the Cowboys, he finished with 107 yards and three touchdowns last season.

The Cowboys’ defense has been vulnerable, ranking 28th in success rate allowed since Week 11. Their calling card is the pass rush – they lead the NFL in pass rush win rate – but the Packers counter with an elite offensive line. Green Bay ranks second in pass-block win rate per ESPN and Love is fourth in pressured passer rating since Week 9.

Dak Prescott has had a tremendous season of his own, ranking second in adjusted EPA/play among qualified quarterbacks. He should have a ton of success against a crumbling Packers defense that has allowed the third-highest yards per attempt since Week 13. There’s little doubt that the Cowboys will be able to put up points in this game.

Ultimately, a bet on the Packers is a bet on Love against an overrated Dallas defense. For what it’s worth, Green Bay has been highly competitive on the road this season. They have a 4-5 record, but all five losses have been by four or fewer points. I make this number Cowboys -5.5, so I’m happy to take the key number of 7 with the Packers with the understanding that the back door should be open all game long if needed.

Best Bet: Packers +7

Los Angeles Rams at Detroit Lions

Matthew Stafford makes his return to Detroit as the Lions host their first playoff game since 1994. Not only are they hosting their first playoff game since the 90’s, but they are also looking to get their first playoff win since 1991 as well. Oddsmakers lean towards their favor, opening them as high as -5 in some sportsbooks.

Bettors have since bet the Rams down to +3, indicating that they can maintain scoring pace which shows value elsewhere. That is geared towards the total, still sitting under the key number of 52 as 51.5 is widely available. It’s the highest total on the board, yet well deserved as this game should feature an abundance of points.

Starting with the Detroit Lions, their offense gets the benefit of being at home where Jared Goff thrives as a hyper efficient quarterback. After a brief stint where he struggled with turnovers in the middle of the season, Goff has since rounded back into form when inside a dome and has started to shred opposing secondaries once again.

He is now in a position to thrive as his offensive line will give him ample protection as they rank fourth in Adjusted Sack Rate. With a clean pocket and extra time to let his pass catchers create separation in the open field, Goff should have no issue with hitting his receivers in stride with high quality passing lanes.

Better yet for Detroit’s offense, their ground game should be in a position to succeed as well as the Lions rank first in Adjusted Line Yards. The Rams front four has struggled in the trenches, ranking 21st in Def Adjusted Line Yards. That means Gibbs and Montgomery should face minimal contact by the time they hit the trenches, having a high quality chance of churning out extra yards as they hit the second level of the defense.

As for the Rams, expect a heavy dose of the pass as Stafford shreds a weak Lions secondary who has mightily struggled in the second half of the season. Even with the return of CJ Gardner-Johnson, it’s hard to imagine how the Lions find a quick answer to mask their poor metrics of 25th in Def Pass EPA and Success Rate. Especially with Cooper Kupp and Puka Nacua playing as elite talents at the receiver position.

Expect the Lions offensive versatility to give the Rams defense fits while Stafford routinely moves the ball down the field with his arm. With both teams expected to find themselves in scoring position at a consistent rate, take the over at no higher than 52 in what should be a high scoring affair.

Best Bet: Over 51.5

Cleveland Browns at Houston Texans

The Houston Texans are the latest team to go from worst to first in terms of winning their division, now getting the benefit of hosting a playoff game. A remarkable feat when looking back at how they looked in the season before, now oozing with potential with CJ Stroud already looking like a star franchise player.

It’s even more impressive when the Texans have been dealing with injuries all season long as their offensive line has been decimated since week one. This transformed the Texans offense to revolve around quick outs and getting their playmakers out in the open field, shifting defensive attention towards the middle to set up a Stroud deep ball.

While that managed to work earlier in the year, they now face an elite Browns defense who thrives in coverage while crashing the pocket with their front four. The Browns rank seventh in Pressure, 14th in Blitz Rate, second in Def Pass DVOA, and first in Def Pass EPA and Success Rate.

Expect plenty of clogged passing lanes to where Stroud wants to throw in a collapsing pocket, potentially increasing the chance for turnover worthy plays in the Browns favor. Especially with their receiver room having plenty of question marks surrounding the availability of Noah Brown and Robert Woods, both potentially returning yet playing at less than 100% at best.

The Texans ground game may be in a position to revert to their early season struggles as well, having to try and find production against an elite Browns front seven. The Browns rank fourth in Def Rush DVOA and 10th in Def Rush Success Rate, now getting the chance to push back an injury riddled o-line and contain Devin Singletary in the trenches.

As for the Browns offense, expect Joe Flacco to remain aggressive in his efforts to stretch the field through the air. Pass coverage has been a weakness for the Texans throughout the season as they field an inexperienced secondary who ranks 23rd in Def Pass DVOA, 18th in Def Pass Success Rate, and 20th in Def Pass EPA.

Expect the Browns offense to find enough success through the air to set a scoring pace too fast for the Texans to keep up with as Stroud struggles against an elite Cleveland defense. The Browns defense may regress on the road, yet still fields more than enough talent to contain an injury riddled Texans offense. Take the Browns at no higher than -3.

Best Bet: Cleveland Browns -2.5

Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys

No postseason matchup has occurred more times than the Green Bay Packers against the Dallas Cowboys. This matchup is tied with a few others as the most-played in NFL playoff history, and the two teams are tied 4-4 across the eight clashes, but both of those deadlocks will be snapped on Sunday. The game is of course drowning in historical context, but this edition is likely going to be very different from what we’ve seen from these teams in the past.

Rather than a hard-hitting old-school defensive battle, or a game won and lost in the trenches with gritty rushing offense and defense, this is going to be an air attack in both directions. The Packers are certainly a pass-first team this season; Jordan Love has improved tremendously as the year has gone on, and their air game is up to fourth in the NFL in DVOA, compared to a very average 15th for their rushing offense. Love was particularly dominant down the stretch, as he tossed 18 touchdowns and just a solitary pick over the final eight weeks of the season.

Meanwhile, the Dallas identity of success through offensive line dominance and running the ball is eroding. That’s okay, because their passing prowess has gone in the other direction. Dak Prescott was genuinely one of the best few passers in the NFL this season, finishing behind only Tua Tagovailoa in PFF’s passing grade. He led the league with 36 passing touchdowns- with none other than Love in second with an impressive 32. He even delivered on his promise to cut down on his interceptions, as he threw just nine after throwing a league-worst, and career-worst, 15 last year.

These defenses also aren’t particularly well-equipped to slow down those opposing air offenses. This is especially true when the Packers defense is on the field with the Cowboys offense. Green Bay ranked 26th in DVOA against the pass, with their worst work coming at the end of the year.

Trading Rasul Douglas away has proven to be a tremendous mistake- the top corner has been outstanding for Buffalo, while Green Bay’s Jaire Alexander has been equal parts injured and mediocre this season. It’s hard to imagine them having much of an answer for CeeDee Lamb, who hauled in a ridiculous 135 catches this year for 1,749 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Meanwhile, the vaunted Cowboys defense has taken a step back in recent weeks, as the rigor of navigating the 17-week season has really taken effect. Since week 12, Dallas is just 22nd in EPA against the pass, a significant downturn from their early-season figures. Even with Green Bay’s pass-catching corps a bit banged up, they should be able to move the ball, especially with the current form of red-hot rookie wideout Jayden Reed.

Expect plenty of offensive fireworks from both sides in this game that, unlike many others this week, will be free of harsh January weather as it takes place not only down in Texas, but indoors in a dome.

Best Bet: Over 50.5

Cleveland Browns at Houston Texans

Here’s a fun wrinkle- the Browns and Lions are both favored in a postseason game for the first time ever. We can spend all day debating whether Detroit really deserves that distinction, and you can find more information on that matchup in Kody’s write-up above, but Cleveland has really earned it. They’ve overcome incredible amounts of injuries and adversity to put up one of their best regular seasons since being re-established in the late 90s. But, there’s reason to believe that their defense, which ranks as nearly the league’s best by DVOA and #1 by EPA, might have an off-day in Houston.

The Cleveland defense has not traveled well at all. They allow just 3.9 yards per rush at home, compared to 4.7 on the road. They allow a ridiculous 4.7 yards per pass attempted at home, and a still solid but much less dominant 7.2 when they’re the away squad. They’ve picked off nine passes in each setting, but have allowed 15 passing touchdowns as visitors compared to just eight in Cleveland. Similarly, opponents have rushed for 10 scores when hosting the Browns, compared to just five when traveling up to the shores of Lake Erie.

All of this goes to show that the Browns have an awesome home-field advantage, and their fanbase deserves a tremendous amount of credit. Whether it’s a beautiful September day or a rainy 38 degrees in December, the building is packed and lively. Those gross late-season weather days also don’t hurt defensive production, especially against teams coming from warm or indoor environments, with Houston serving as a perfect example.

This game would be entirely different if the Browns were the division-winners and the Texans a Wild Card, but down South in a domed stadium, the Texans should be able to have plenty of offensive success. With quarterback CJ Stroud and wideout Nico Collins healthy, the duo have built up quite a rapport. They’ve linked up for four touchdowns in those crucial final six games of the season, with Collins averaging just about 100 yards on the dot per game across that stretch, capped off by a tremendous 195 in the division-clincher against the Colts.

The Browns should also be able to move it on a Houston defense that ranks 23rd in DVOA against the pass. Amari Cooper is questionable for this game, but he’s been excellent down the stretch, highlighted by a ridiculous 265-yard outburst against none other than Houston when these teams met on Christmas Eve. Tight end David Njoku has also really blossomed with Joe Flacco at quarterback, and should victimize a Houston defense that has not covered tight ends well.

Best Bet: Over 44.5

I've been a huge sports fan for as long as I can remember and I've always loved writing. In 2020, I joined the Lineups team, and I've been producing written and video content on football and basketball ever since. In May 2021, I graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in sport management. My goal is to tell enthralling stories and provide meaningful insight on the sports I write about while helping you cash some bets along the way.

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