A right cracking weekend of NFL action is before us! The NFL playoffs are around the corner and with them arrives the added drama of a first Monday night showdown two divisional matchups meeting for the third time this season, and three matchups that are poised for a rematch after dueling this season.
NFL betting lines are in full swing and heating up as action comes down the sportsbook wire. Below is a look at the entire wild-card round of the NFL playoffs, including all picks made against the spread (ATS).
NFL Wild Card Picks Against the Spread
Las Vegas Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals -5½
The Las Vegas Raiders squeaked into the playoffs against the odds following a 35-32 upset win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday Night Football. Now, the Raiders are faced with a short week and a rematch against the Cincinnati Bengals, who rested many of their starters in Week 18.
The Raiders and Bengals met in Week 11 at Allegiant Stadium. Cincinnati won that game handsomely, 32-13, and there’s little reason to believe it won’t happen again or in a similar fashion in this rematch. The Bengals are one of the most exhilarating young teams in the league, with Joe Burrow, Joe Mixon, and Ja’Marr Chase leading an electric offense that can torch any defense on a good day.
The Raiders have done well to reach this stage, overcoming obstacles along the way that would have understandably felled many a team. But this might be the end of the road for the plucky Raiders.
Pick: Bengals -5½ (-110)
New England Patriots +4 at Buffalo Bills
Act three between NFC East rivals is firmly cornered with the Buffalo Bills on the NFL odds board, despite both teams winning on the road during the regular-season series. The Patriots opened the series with a fastidious 14-10 victory at Orchard Park that left the Bills bemused and befuddled. Three weeks later, the Bills asserted themselves in a 33-21 win at Foxborough.
Two different accounts, two different results. How this trilogy ends is anybody’s guess. Clearly, oddsmakers are hanging their hats on the hosts, tipping the Bills as the 4-point home chalk, while consensus betting falls in line with this market outlook.
At face value, a Buffalo win makes sense until one considers the Belichick-factor. One can never discount one of the greatest head coaches in the game, especially in the playoffs against a team that he knows better than it knows itself. Yes, the Bills’ offense heated up down the stretch, winning four of its last five contests. However, three wins came against the Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons, and the New York Jets. Hardly a ringing endorsement of their credentials.
If home-field advantage is worth approximately three points, the 4-point line suggests the Bills are merely 1-point better than the Patriots. That’s not quite a pick’em, but it’s close enough, making this a bit of a coin toss. Certainly, it makes a Patriots’ cover the tempting bet, if not the outright upset entirely.
Pick: Patriots +4 (-110)
Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
In this rematch between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the defending Super Bowl champions are rightly the heavy favorites for NFL picks against the spread. Granted, the first meeting ended with Tampa Bay taking the narrow 28-22 win, but the game wasn’t as competitive as the score suggests. Late scoring from the Eagles, after the Buccaneers took the 28-7 lead, earned Philly the backdoor cover.
Tom Brady’s game winning touchdown!!!! #GoBucs
-Tom Brady’s 700th (regular season + playoffs)
Breshad Perriman’s first as a Buccaneerpic.twitter.com/HN7vvqTPp3
— GOAT (@TomBradyEgo) December 13, 2021
Of all the games on the Wild Card betting slate, this has to be the most straightforward, surely. This isn’t to say the Eagles won’t have any success but don’t be expecting a sequel to the Philly Special. Tom Brady will make sure it doesn’t happen. Yes, Chris Goodwin (injury) is out and Antonio Brown has quit the team, but Brady still has Mike Evans and his BFF Rob Gronkowski, amongst others that are poised to become stars.
Pick: Buccaneers -9 ½ (Even)
San Francisco 49ers at Dallas Cowboys
This is the first meeting between the San Francisco 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys this season, prompting one of the tightest NFL lines in betting online markets. As things currently stand, the line is nestled delicately on a field goal with the hosts to the good.
By all accounts, the San Francisco 49ers are the team nobody wants to play in the postseason due to their legitimate dangerous floater credentials, and the Cowboys (allegedly) boast one of the hottest offenses in the league. Coupled with the added theater of a reunion between Niners’ head coach Kyle Shanahan and Cowboys’ defensive coordinator Dan Quinn – who were together for Atlanta Falcons’ epic collapse in Super Bowl Li, albeit performing different roles – this matchup is probably going to be THE game to spot in Sunday’s Wild Card round.
The Cowboys are the NFC East champions, but with the division a shambolic mess, made up by the weakest fields in the league, it’s hard to invest any stock in a serious postseason run. The Niners overcame injury woes, adversity, and one of the most competitive fields in the league to clinch a place in the NFC playoffs. One has to fancy their chances against the Cowboys, who haven’t been properly tested this season.
Pick: Niners +3 (-105)
Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs
If the markets have it right, the Kansas City Chiefs are poised to steamroll the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday Night Football. Heck, Ben Roethlisberger seems to agree. Then again, he would after the Steelers were indeed steamrolled by the Chiefs 36-10 at Arrowhead Stadium only a few weeks ago.
“We don’t have a chance, so let’s just go in and have fun.”
—Ben Roethlisberger on the Steelers’ playoff game vs. the Chiefs
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 12, 2022
Of all the games slated for the first round of the NFL playoffs, this is the only game that features a double-digit spread. The Chiefs opened at -13 on the NFL point spreads board, and the line has held relatively firm for the most part with an occasional move to 13 ½
Pittsburgh’s road into the postseason was anything but straightforward, and not until the curtain came down on Sunday’s Week 18, regular-season finale, did the Steelers receive confirmation of their safe passage into the playoffs. Because luck rather than genuine merit (or so they say) delivered the Steelers into the Promised Land, many in NFL betting circles are convinced their luck is about to run out. But what if it doesn’t?
Perhaps, betting on a Steelers win over the Chiefs is a longshot NFL pick, but covering the almost two-touchdown line isn’t totally beyond the realm of reason. Consider this may well be the last game of Big Ben’s storied NFL career.
Pick: Steelers +13½ (-110)
Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams
The Arizona Cardinals and the Los Angeles Rams split their series 1-1 with both sides pulling off road upsets. In part three of their highly competitive NFC West rivalry, the Rams get the nod from the Las Vegas odds gurus, though not everyone is buying what Los Angeles’ glitterati are selling.
The Cardinals lost steam down the stretch, going 4-6 in their last 10 games. However, some allowance is given for the key injuries the Cardinals have had to deal with in the second half of the season, including Kyler Murray, DeAndre Hopkins, and J.J. Watt, to name a few.
The Rams went 6-4 in their last 10 games and clinched the NFC West title in week 18, albeit following a loss to the Niners in overtime. Going into the playoffs on the heels of a loss isn’t ideal, but it’s not always a concerning sign. What is, though, is quarterback Matthew Stafford’s erratic play down the stretch.
Stafford finished with a career-high 41 touchdowns, but he also threw 13 interceptions (INTs) between November and December and finished with a league-leading 17 INTs. What heightens the concern over these turnovers is the timing.
Stafford’s turnovers typically come in big moments, leading many to question his mental fortitude on the big occasion. Case-and-point, Stafford’s interception in overtime handed the Niners the much-needed win last Sunday to advance into the playoffs. In turn, the Rams’ loss resulted in Los Angeles dropping from the No.2 seed to the No.4 seed in NFC.
Fun fact: The Cardinals are 8-1 on the road this season and the Rams are 0-3 against teams with a winning record since Week 3’s win over the Bucs. So, who do you think coach Sean McVay would have rather played in the playoffs? The No.5 Cardinals or the No.7 Eagles?.Yup! Don’t be surprised if the Rams rue that Week 18 loss.