The NFL playoffs are underway, and you can find updated odds, lines, and predictions for the Wild Card Round here. Six playoff games kick off on Saturday through Monday, including some enticing entertainment options. The race for the Super Bowl starts here. Tennessee and Green Bay both will have a bye for the first round. Predictions & Picks will be updated early week.
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My Week 18 Record: 8-8 SU, 11-5 ATS, 10-6 O/U
My Regular Season Record: 172-99-1 SU (63.2%), 161-110-1 ATS (59.1%), 146-123-2 O/U (53.6%)
NFL Wild Card Round Odds
Las Vegas Raiders Vs. Cincinnati Bengals
The Raiders have carried tremendous resolve, and an impressive “never say die” mentality into the playoffs, despite facing more off-field turmoil and tragedy than any team in recent memory. The latest accomplishment, a gritty home win over a talented Chargers team that everyone thought would win, was the most worthy of celebration. Derek Carr now has the opportunity to start in a playoff game for the first time in his career, and it’s well-deserved for him on the heels of an excellent season. Josh Jacobs ripped through a terrible Chargers’ run defense with 26 carries for 132 yards and a touchdown in an epic performance that included several huge plays. However, the Bengals’ run defense is much better than LA’s, and Jacobs was held to just nine carries for 37 yards against them earlier in the year. The Raiders’ ability to run the ball could help turn the tide as they struggled mightily to move the ball against the Bengals earlier this season. The return of Darren Waller and the emergence of Hunter Renfrow should help the Raiders score more than they did against Cincy in the prior matchup.
This year, Joe Burrow only threw for 148 yards against the Raiders, but he should be fresh after resting last week. It’s hard to imagine Vegas will have the answers for Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins, although the Bengals may not even need to throw the ball much this week. This year, Joe Mixon was excellent against the Raiders with 30 carries for 123 yards and two touchdowns, and it puts them in a bind on defense. If the Raiders stack the box to slow down Mixon, Chase and Higgins will feast over the top. Maxx Crosby could be the great equalizer in this game, and he was outstanding against the Chargers last week. His matchup against Isaiah Prince with Riley Reiff on Injured Reserve is enough for me to consider taking the Raiders against the spread. However, Mixon’s ability to produce on the ground is enough to keep the Raiders off balance.
It’s been an outstanding season for the Raiders, but it’s going to come to an end this week. The combination of a stellar ground game and an explosive passing game will prove to be too much for the Raiders’ defense, but I’m willing to bet on a healthier Raiders’ offense finding a way to score enough to stay in this game. However, Joe Burrow seems destined to get his first playoff win in his first year in the postseason.
Las Vegas Raiders: DT Darius Philon (knee) Q, LB Darron Lee (undisclosed) Q
Cincinnati Bengals: QB Joe Burrow (knee) Q, K Evan McPhearson (groin) Q, DE Cameron Sample (hamstring) Q
Matchup To Watch: Isaiah Prine (CIN OT) vs. Maxx Crosby (LV DE)
My Prediction: Bengals win 23-20, Raiders cover, under 49.5 points
New England Patriots Vs. Buffalo Bills
I’d recommend getting in on this game early in the week, as I expect heavy public money to be favoring Buffalo at home. The Patriots win over the Bills earlier when Mac Jones only attempted three passes was a fun story, but it became clear that was a necessity later in the year when Mac Jones had his worst game of the season against Buffalo. I take full ownership for my bad take on Jones before the season – he has outproduced all expectations and looks like a long-term starter in this league. However, he’s still a rookie, and he’s hit a wall in recent weeks, with five of his thirteen interceptions this year coming in the last four games. That includes two interceptions in each game against the Bills and Colts. Damien Harris is still banged up, and the possible absence of Isaiah Wynn after he suffered an ankle injury on Sunday would be massive against a deep and talented crop of Bills pass-rushers.
Josh Allen hasn’t been passing the ball all that consistently lately. Still, the Bills have been emphasizing his role in the run game more often, which has been a productive strategy and one that I expected them to use more in that awful weather game against the Patriots earlier in the year. Allen has 60+ rushing yards in four of his last five games, and simultaneously, Devin Singletary has emerged as the consistent workhorse back in the offense. Of course, Allen can still beat the Patriots through the air, and Stefon Diggs proved too much to handle for them a couple of weeks ago – he finished that game with seven catches for 85 yards and a touchdown. However, the running game’s emergence makes the Bills so dangerous as a Super Bowl contender, especially when complemented with a top-notch defense.
I can understand your hesitance to bet against Bill Belichick in the playoffs, but this is perhaps the worst possible matchup the Patriots could have gotten in the first round. The loss of defensive superstar cornerback Tre’Davious White hasn’t been as significant an issue as expected in recent weeks, and it won’t keep the Bills from getting the better of rookie Mac Jones. Barring some kind of freak monsoon hitting the Northeast on Saturday, the Bills should roll to a win over their divisional rival.
New England Patriots: LB D’Onta Hightower (knee) Q, DE Christian Barmore (knee) Q, S Kyle Dugger (hand) Q, OT Isaiah Wynn (ankle) Q
Buffalo Bills: WR Emmanuel Sanders (knee) Q
Matchup To Watch: Stefon Diggs (BUF WR) vs. J.C. Jackson (NE CB)
My Prediction: Bills win 27-20, Bills cover, over 43.5 points
Philadelphia Eagles Vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It’s been a couple of months, but the Eagles had an excellent showing against the Buccaneers earlier this season, making them sweat out a narrow six-point win. The Bucs had Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown available for that game, which is no longer the case as Godwin is out with an ACL injury for the year, and Brown is off the team. Philly’s defense matches up quite well against Tampa, making this an exciting game. Darius Slay is one of the best cornerbacks in the league, and his matchup with Mike Evans will be fascinating. If Evans is taken out of the game by Slay, where can the Bucs turn for offensive production? Gronk will have a solid game, but the lack of depth in skill-position talent has been problematic for Tampa in recent weeks. The return of Leonard Fournette will be massive, however, as the team has struggled to maintain its rushing offense without the starting RB. He will need to have a big game with Brady likely limited against a strong pass defense.
I started the year very much out on Jalen Hurts, but he’s won me over in recent weeks, and I love his leadership qualities heading into this big playoff game. The presence of Hurts as a dynamic dual-threat quarterback has aided the Eagles in developing one of the best rushing offenses in the NFL. It should be fascinating to see them match up against Tampa’s run defense which allowed the third-fewest rushing yards this year. Keep an eye on the injury report, as the potential absences of Lane Johnson and Landon Dickerson would be massive, especially with Shaquil Barrett expected to return from the COVID-19 Injured Reserve. Tampa Bay has been vulnerable in the secondary with tons of injuries to its cornerback room, but can Jalen Hurts take advantage? DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert will be tasked with helping Hurts keep the defense honest to help establish the ground game.
Most people will see this game as an excellent opportunity to tease the Buccaneers, and I don’t necessarily disagree with that approach. However, I don’t think this Eagles team is a pushover, particularly with Tampa still dealing with significant injuries on both sides of the ball. I’m not saying you should bet on the Eagles to outright upset Tom Brady in the first round of the playoffs, but I like Hurts and Philly to keep this game competitive and make the Bucs work for their first playoff win.
Philadelphia Eagles: RB Miles Sanders (hand) Q, OT Lane Johnson (knee) Q, OG Landon Dickerson (thumb) Q
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: RB Ronald Jones (ankle) Q, CB Jamel Dean (hamstring) Q, CB Richard Sherman (Achilles) Q, OLB Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder) Q, WR Cyril Grayson (hamstring) Q, OLB Shaquil Barrett (undisclosed) IR/COVID-19
Matchup To Watch: Lane Johnson (PHI OT) vs. Shaquil Barrett (TB OLB)
My Prediction: Buccaneers win 28-20, Buccaneers cover, under 49.5 points
San Francisco 49ers Vs. Dallas Cowboys
The 49ers and Cowboys are two storied franchises who have delivered some incredibly memorable playoff games throughout the years. I have this pegged as the best matchup of the opening round of the postseason. Dallas has been on fire offensively, ranking first in the NFL in both points per game (31.2) and yards per game (407). Dak Prescott’s midseason slump is now fully behind him as he has 12 touchdowns and no interceptions over his past three games, and he should be able to take advantage of a San Francisco secondary that has dealt with injuries all year. With neither Ezekiel Elliott nor Tony Pollard fully healthy, I have some concerns about the Cowboys’ run game being good enough to get through a long playoff run, but that shouldn’t be a massive issue in this game with how overmatched the Niners’ cornerbacks will be against CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper. The Cowboys are also uniquely equipped to slow down Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead (assuming Tyron Smith plays) with arguably the best offensive line in the league.
San Francisco has some elite skill position players on offense. If not for Jonathan Taylor and Cooper Kupp having all-time seasons, Deebo Samuel would be a top candidate for Offensive Player of the Year. Samuel scored 14 touchdowns during the regular season and had over 1,700 yards from scrimmage. Of course, George Kittle is an unbelievable player in his own right and is arguably the best all-around tight end in the NFL. The big question I have for the Niners is whether or not Jimmy Garoppolo can play a clean, efficient game. His two interceptions against both the Rams and Titans in the last two weeks of the season almost cost his team a playoff spot, and it’s become painfully apparent that the Niners are often winning despite Jimmy G, not because of him. He came up with a clutch drive to tie the game and send it to overtime against the Rams, but he’s a liability against a defense that thrives on havoc – the Cowboys lead the NFL in turnover margin this season.
The Cowboys hold a 5-2 all-time postseason record over the 49ers, and I’m betting on that record to continue. Dak Prescott has been on a tear lately, and the banged-up 49ers’ secondary is not equipped to slow him down. I also have significant concerns about Jimmy Garoppolo against a defense that thrives on creating turnovers. If Trent Williams cannot play, I’ll have even more confidence as Garoppolo should struggle against DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory.
San Francisco 49ers: OT Trent Williams (elbow) Q, DT Maurice Hurst (calf) Q, S Jaquiski Tartt (groin) Q, OLB Azeez Al-Shaair (knee) Q
Dallas Cowboys: CB Trevon Diggs (illness) Q, RB Tony Pollard (foot) Q, OT Tyron Smith (illness) IR/COVID-19
Matchup To Watch: Trent Williams (SF OT) vs. Randy Gregory (DAL DE)
My Prediction: Cowboys win 30-23, Cowboys cover, over 51 points
Pittsburgh Steelers Vs. Kansas City Chiefs
In every single game in this year’s Wild Card round, I can be talked into picking either team ATS. Except for in this one. I can’t possibly fathom in my right mind taking the Steelers to cover this week, much less upsetting the Chiefs in Arrowhead. Frankly, if I were Ben Roethlisberger, I would have been rooting for a tie in the Chargers-Raiders game to avoid having to play this week. Nonetheless, the Steelers earned the right to go to Kansas City and be slaughtered. The Chiefs held a 23-0 halftime lead when they faced the Steelers a couple of weeks ago, and they took their foot off the gas in a big way in the second half, but they still won by 26 points. Najee Harris and Diontae Johnson were both banged up in Sunday’s win over the Ravens, and with those two at 100% against the Chiefs, Roethlisberger averaged just 4.5 yards per attempt and finished with a putrid QBR of 14.0. Kansas City’s defense has rounded into form lately, and they’re going to expose Pittsburgh again this week.
On the other side of the ball, I’m intrigued to see which version of the Kansas City offense we know this week. Denver kept them in check last week despite being without their top two cornerbacks, but I don’t believe Pittsburgh has the personnel to accomplish that feat. Patrick Mahomes threw for 258 yards and three touchdowns on a pristine 135.1 passer rating against the Steelers this year, and the emergence of Darrel Williams alongside Clyde Edwards-Helaire will allow the Chiefs to take advantage of Pittsburgh’s run defense that allowed the most rushing yards during the regular season. Tyreek Hill is working through a heel injury, and his status needs to be monitored, as well. The Chiefs will also be dealing with Lucas Niang, their starting right tackle, hitting the Injured Reserve, leaving Andrew Wylie to line up against T.J. Watt this week. He instantly becomes the biggest X-factor for this team moving forward.
I’m disappointed that this is one of the playoff games we have this weekend, and as a neutral supporter, it would have been so much cooler to see Chiefs vs. Chargers Part 3. The Chiefs may have been vulnerable in that game due to the offensive injuries they are currently facing, and they may have a tough time moving the ball in this game. Nonetheless, the Steelers won’t have many answers against an opportunistic defense they scored just 10 points against a few weeks ago, and the under is probably the best bet in this game.
Pittsburgh Steelers: WR James Washington (undisclosed) IR/COVID-19
Kansas City Chiefs: WR Tyreek Hill (heel) Q, RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (shoulder) Q, RB Darrel Williams (toe) Q
Matchup To Watch: Andrew Wylie (KC OT) vs. T.J. Watt (PIT OLB)
My Prediction: Chiefs win 27-10, Chiefs cover, under 46.5 points
Arizona Cardinals Vs. Los Angeles Rams
There hasn’t been a clear update on DeAndre Hopkins yet, but I would expect the All-Pro receiver to be available for this game. Kyler Murray’s play has suffered without Hopkins in the lineup, and it has directly led to the Cardinals losing four of their last five games. Now at 11-6, the Cardinals’ 9-1 start to the year feels like ages ago. Along with Arizona’s offense slipping down the stretch, the defense hasn’t been the same as they’ve allowed 28.4 points per game over the past five weeks after allowing 28 or more points just twice over the first eleven games of the year. The Cardinals’ pass rush has lost some juice without J.J. Watt in the lineup. The limited pass rush has failed to cover up a suspect secondary – Byron Murphy Jr. and rookie fourth-rounder Marco Wilson was never an elite cornerback duo. If Hopkins and Watt come back this week, much of the issues the team has faced lately will be diminished, but their respective statuses are up in the air.
Will this finally be Matthew Stafford’s first playoff win? The toe injury he picked up against the 49ers last week isn’t ideal, nor were the two interceptions that put him tied for the season lead in picks along with rookie Trevor Lawrence. Stafford has struggled to take care of the football with seven interceptions over his last three games, and those picks will indeed hold back the Rams in the playoffs if he can’t get it under control. I’m excited to see Cooper Kupp’s historic triple crown season continue into the playoffs, especially after Kupp had 13 catches for 123 yards against Arizona in the Rams’ big road win over their divisional rival a few weeks ago. The Rams also have to find a way to run the ball against Arizona, which they should do against a middle-of-the-pack run defense. Sony Michel has been solid, but the return of young phenom Cam Akers comes at a perfect time. The opportunistic play of Jalen Ramsey, Von Miller, and Aaron Donald could also create a couple of turnovers, which would go a long way for the Rams.
The Rams and Cardinals haven’t been consistent, and it’s hard to know which version of these teams we will see. If Los Angeles can limit their turnovers, do a better job of blocking for Stafford, and play their brand of opportunistic defense, they should be able to come out of this with a win. Keep an eye on the status of Hopkins and Watt for Arizona, as those are two game-changing players, but if they are out again, it’s hard to trust this current version of the Cardinals in the postseason.
Arizona Cardinals: RB James Conner (ribs) Q, WR Rondale Moore (ankle) Q, CB Marco Wilson (shoulder) Q, DE J.J. Watt (shoulder) IR, WR DeAndre Hopkins (knee – MCL) IR
Los Angeles Rams: S Jordan Fuller (ankle) Q, CB Robert Rochell (chest) IR, DT Sebastian Joseph-Day (pectoral) IR
Matchup To Watch: Cooper Kupp (LAR WR) vs. Byron Murphy Jr. (ARI CB)
My Prediction: Rams win 30-24, Rams cover, over 50 points
Wild Card Round ATS Confidence Rankings
- #1: Bills -4.5
- #2: Chiefs -12.5
- #3: Raiders +6.5
- #4: Eagles +9.5
- #5: Rams -4
- #6: Cowboys -3