NFL Betting Preview: Where Can You Find Value in Saturday’s Wild Card Games?
With the playoffs being expanded this season, we get a three-pack of games on Saturday. And luckily for us as viewers, we are treated to what should be three ultra-competitive games across the board.
According to our schedule-adjusted metrics, we will whet our appetites with the fifth-ranked Buffalo Bills hosting the 11th-ranked Indianapolis Colts. For our second game of the day, two NFC West rivals will clash, as the Los Angeles Rams, checking in fourth, travel to visit the 10th-ranked Seattle Seahawks. Our final game of the day takes place in the nation’s capital, as the home Washington Football Team (#14) will try and hold off the top-ranked Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Let’s dive into what our model thinks could be some intriguing betting angles for these contests.
Buffalo Bills vs. Indianapolis Colts
Just a few seasons ago, the Bills made the playoffs as a Wild Card entrant, ending their lengthy 17-year playoff drought. With Tom Brady leaving New England, they have now ascended to the top of the AFC East as division champions. They will look to add on to their impressive regular season resume with some postseason glory and look to enjoy hosting their first playoff game in upstate New York in 25 years.
Quarterback Josh Allen spearheads their offense, and he has done so quite brilliantly, leading the league’s best offense, according to our metrics. Allen has tossed for 4,544 passing yards and has done so in an efficient manner — his Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back mark of 0.32 is one of the league’s best, well above the league average (0.13). That’s a bit of a terrifying proposition for the Colts, who rank as a top-10 pass defense this season. To close their fantastic regular season, Allen and crew ripped off a combined 142 points over their final three games.
For the Colts to stay in this game, it would help if playoff Philip Rivers shows up. This marks Rivers’ 12th playoff start, and while he’s only posted a 5-6 mark previously, Rivers has performed well with over 2,600 passing yards and 14 touchdowns. Rookie Jonathan Taylor has been extremely efficient down the stretch — he finished Week 17 with 253 rushing yards, and the rookie rusher logged 80 or more rushing yards in five of his last six games.
Per our oddsFire tool, the betting public is siding with the home team in a massive way: 80% of bets and 85% of cash have come in on the Bills. The real money continues to also pour in on that over at the FanDuel Sportsbook, and 84% of cash is siding on that over (51.5 points). Unfortunately, our algorithm doesn’t love that over, as it predicts that the under will come in 52.32% of the time.
— These teams have been very different from an against-the-spread (ATS) bet recently, as the Bills are a perfect 8-0 ATS in their last 8, and the Colts going 4-4.
— In January playoff games, the road Colts have struggled, posting a 2-7 ATS mark in their last 9.
— The home team has been perfect in this series ATS over the last five games.
Seattle Seahawks vs. Los Angeles Rams
Two inter-division rivals meet in Game Two of our playoff slate, and quite a few question marks surround this contest.
After undergoing thumb surgery, signal-caller Jared Goff has practiced each of the last two days, but only time will tell if he or John Wolford is under center for this game. If Goff is able to return, he needs to step up his play — he struggled this season with a 0.08 Passing NEP per pass mark, paired with a mediocre 51.83% Passing Success Rate.
On the flip side, Russell Wilson, who was the early-season favorite for the MVP award, has cooled in recent weeks. While Russ cooked for a while, his 0.18 Passing NEP per pass mark has dropped significantly to close the season — the quarterback has not topped 300 passing yards since Week 8 of the season. He certainly looks to have his hands full against one of the league’s top defensive units, led by Aaron Donald.
With all of the uncertainty around the quarterback slot for the Rams, per our oddsFire tool, money is slamming in on Seattle with 74% of bets and 75% of cash supporting the Seahawks. As far as our algorithm is concerned, it does give some serious love to the home ‘Hawks, giving them a 60% chance to cover the 3.0-point spread as a two-star bet.
— Both teams have been mediocre ATS bets this year, with the Rams posting a 9-7 ATS mark and the Seahawks posting an 8-8 mark.
— Sitting at a lowly 42.5 points, the over/under may seem tantalizing to play, but expect the under to hit.
— The UNDER has clicked in 11 of the last 13 Rams contests.
— The UNDER has hit in 7 of the last 8 Seahawks contests.
— In their last six games, the Seahawks would have topped 42.5 total points one time.
Washington Football Team vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
We finish the day with an NFC matchup, and it’s the first of two contests this weekend where the home team is a heavy underdog.
The Washington Football Team is set to host the Bucs on Saturday evening, and their ferocious defensive line, led by rookie Chase Young, will have to be on top of their game to pressure veteran quarterback Tom Brady. Brady’s last playoff miss, if you can even attribute it to him unfairly, was in 2008, the season he tore his ACL. He is the all-time leader in NFL playoff wins (30), and he has enjoyed one of the finest seasons of his career, with a 0.26 Passing NEP per drop back mark.
Clearly, this will be a clash of two opposing titans — the Washington Football Team allowed the second-fewest passing yards per game this season (191.8), and they clock in fourth-against the pass per our schedule-adjusted metrics. The real question lies in if Washington can score enough points to keep pace with the Bucs? While Antonio Gibson has enjoyed an outstanding rookie season, he’s certainly going to face a stiff test against the league’s top-ranked rushing D.
As you may have guessed, per our oddsFire tool, money is rushing in on the Buccaneers with 76% of bets and 80% of cash supporting them, with a whopping 94% of cash supporting the Tampa moneyline. As far as our algorithm is concerned, it anticipates the Buccaneers winning (64.9%) but likes the chances for Washington to cover the 7.5-point spread (63.62%).
— Both teams have been simply okay ATS, with the Bucs logging a mark of 9-7, and Washington posting an 8-7-1 mark.
— Tampa has been outstanding as a road dog — they are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 games.
— Washington has really struggled at home, posting a 4-16 mark straight-up in their last 20 contests.