The NFL Wild Card round is upon us, and with it comes a great slate of games that is sure to excite. We have you covered with a wide range of content to satisfy all of your betting needs here at Lineups. Check out our YouTube channel for even more coverage on every Wild Card game.
In this article, I’ll break down my best bets on sides and totals in the Wild Card round this week. Be sure to check out our main player props page as well as the articles we have for props and Same Game Parlays for every playoff game. Let’s get to work.
Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills
Last season, the Bills entered a Wild Card game not unlike this one, hosting a rival AFC East team in the Patriots. Buffalo absolutely throttled them, scoring 47 points and not punting once as Josh Allen had more touchdown passes (5) than incompletions (4).
A similar fate could be awaiting the Dolphins on Sunday. You shouldn’t listen to anyone who tells you Tua Tagovailoa wasn’t important to this team. With Tua this season, the Dolphins were third in offensive DVOA. Without him, they were 19th. They scored 24.3 points per game with Tua and 16.3 per game without him.
It isn’t just Tua, though. Miami was already without starting right tackle Austin Jackson, and now Terron Armstead, Brandon Shell, and Kendall Lamm have joined him on the injury report. For a Miami run game based on getting to the edge, that’s huge – they rank seventh in adjusted line yards both over the left and right end.
In addition, Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, and Cedrick Wilson have all been dealing with injuries while Raheem Mostert still has yet to practice as of Thursday. Skylar Thompson already had the deck stacked against him, but with those guys limited? Man.
It’s not just the offense, though. Edge rushers Jaelan Phillips and Bradley Chubb have hit the injury report while key pieces in the secondary in Byron Jones, Brandon Jones, and Nik Needham remain unavailable. This defense is in shambles from a health standpoint, as is the team overall.
The Miami defense has already struggled on the road this season, ranking 24th in EPA per play and 28th in yards per play on the road compared to 1st in EPA per play and 2nd in yards per play at home.
Meanwhile, the Bills averaged an NFL-best 6.5 yards per play at home and scored points on 47% of their drives at home, which ranked third-best in the NFL. Their offense will be fueled by a raucous home crowd, and they will pick apart a defense they’ve seen a ton of lately.
The Bills are favored by 13 points in this game, and while I do think they can and probably will cover that spread, it’s not my favorite way to bet this game. Instead, I’m taking the Bills team total for the first half over 14. You can still get that at fairly close to even money in most places. The full game team total at 27.5 is a fine approach, as well.
I still have long-term concerns about this team. Their offensive line play has been bad too often, Josh Allen’s turnover issues are a glaring concern, the secondary is banged up and allows too many big plays, and the pass rush is limited with Von Miller out for the year.
None of that matters this week, though. The Bills will come out on fire as they continue to get emotional drive from Damar Hamlin’s remarkable recovery, and they will score points early and often on Sunday.
Best Bet: Bills first half team total over 14
New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings have been a controversial team all season as they have won an NFL record 11 games by one score. The advanced metrics don’t paint them very favorably as they ranked 27th in team DVOA and had an expected win total of 6.3 per Football Outsiders.
However, the Giants have a similar profile. They ranked 21st in total team DVOA, as eight of their nine wins came by one score. They had an estimated win total of 7.2 per Football Outsiders, and like the Vikings, they had a negative point differential for the season.
Kirk Cousins had a lot of success against the Giants’ blitz in the first matchup, as they blitzed him on 51.9% of his dropbacks, an absurd number, and he completed 62.5% of his passes against the blitz without a turnover-worthy play.
It’s worth noting that New York’s defense has gotten healthier since that game. Adoree’ Jackson and Xavier McKinney, its most talented players in the secondary, are expected back, while the defensive line is finally boasting the foursome of Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence, Kayvon Thibodeaux, and Azeez Ojulari.
However, the Vikings’ defense is better than most people give it credit for. Duke Shelley is someone who I bemoaned earlier in the year, but he finished the season as PFF’s third-ranked cornerback in coverage grades behind only Sauce Gardner and Patrick Surtain, two All-Pro talents.
The Vikings’ run defense hasn’t held up at times this season, and their four losses all came against teams that ran the ball very effectively. New York should have plenty of success running the ball with Saquon Barkley, which will allow them to shorten the game and maintain time of possession.
The tiebreaker in all of this is Justin Jefferson. The LSU product has become the best wide receiver in the NFL, and he finished the regular season with 128 catches for 1,809 yards and eight touchdowns. The Giants didn’t have an answer for him a few weeks ago, and even if Jackson plays here, they still won’t.
Justin Jefferson broke the internet.
Still not over this one. pic.twitter.com/sxiLVwJcKK
— NFL (@NFL) January 9, 2023
Ultimately, this game screams Vikings by 3. It’s why you haven’t seen the number move one way or the other here, as there would be strong value on either the Vikings -2.5 or the Giants +3.5. At the current number, I lean Giants +3, but my favorite way to play this game is by using the alternate team win margins.
You can get excellent value on the Vikings to win by one score, and that’s how I chose to play this game. I played a half unit on the Vikings to win by 1-6 points at +290 on DraftKings and by 1-13 points at +140 on FanDuel. Look around on other sportsbooks as you might find even better odds on those.
In addition, I’m playing the under here. The Giants’ defense is getting healthier as I broke down above, while the Vikings’ defense has reached a point where they’re probably slightly underrated. They held the Giants to 3-11 on third downs in that prior matchup, and New York ranks just 22nd in third-down conversion rate this season.
When these teams met a few weeks ago, there were 33 total points scored with three minutes left before two touchdowns and a last-second 61-yard field goal saw the total go slightly over. With plenty of time to watch film and prepare, these defenses will be even more prepared to face the offenses they just faced.
Best Bet: Vikings to win by 1-6 points (0.5u, +290 DraftKings) and by 1-13 points (0.5u, +140 FanDuel); under 48.5 points
Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals
The line movement in this game has been fascinating as it’s fluctuated massively in response to the uncertainty at the quarterback position. I grabbed the Bengals at -1 earlier in the week in a teaser. I paired them with the Jaguars +7.5, and I would target either that or the Buccaneers +8.5 as the safest partners to the dance.
However, I believe the line has reached a point to where the Ravens are actually undervalued. Baltimore’s defense has been excellent since acquiring Roquan Smith. Since he arrived in Week 9, they rank third in defensive DVOA and fifth in EPA. His transformative play in the middle of the field has been monumental.
Where the Ravens are most vulnerable is against deep passes as they ranked 31st in DVOA against the deep ball. However, the secondary should have corners Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey intact, which helps a ton, and free safety Marcus Williams is back after missing a chunk of the year.
The Bengals have a great deep ball thrower and two awesome receivers in Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins, but I’m not sure how many opportunities they will have to throw downfield. The absences of Alex Cappa and La’el Collins leaves the right side of the line in a bad position, and Baltimore has plenty of pass rushers to throw at Joe Burrow.
As a result of the offensive line injuries, the Bengals will likely operate a more conservative offense, which plays right into the hands of Baltimore. With Smith patrolling the middle of the field, Patrick Queen’s sideline-to-sideline playmaking, and rookie Kyle Hamilton’s elite play in the big nickel role, this front seven is monstrous.
The Ravens’ offense lacks upside in this game without Lamar Jackson, which is why you’ve seen the spread balloon to 10 points. However, Tyler Huntley is at least competent enough to be involved in a functional offense, especially one that has the type of run game that Baltimore boasts.
JK Dobbins makes it look too easy man pic.twitter.com/2orch930tP
— Ramey (@HoodieRamey) December 18, 2022
J.K. Dobbins has been excellent since returning to the lineup as he’s averaged 6.9 YPC in his last four games, and he’s capable of producing great numbers against a defense that ranked 14th in DVOA against the run and 17th in run defense success rate. Dobbins didn’t play when these teams met last week.
The Ravens sat a bunch of players last week including Huntley, Dobbins, and Mark Andrews as they effectively punted the game against the Bengals. They didn’t want to show a lot, and they still outgained Cincinnati in terms of total yardage. The Bengals scored just three points in the second half.
Ultimately, the final score in the game last week is buying us a lot of value here. Sure, there’s no Lamar Jackson. But the Ravens are capable of making the Bengals sweat with their run game, defense, and overall ball control. That’s a winning strategy in the playoffs. With John Harbaugh a superior coach to Zac Taylor, take the points with the underdog here.
Best Bet: Ravens +10 or Bengals between 1 and 2.5 in a teaser