NFL Betting: How to Pick Wild Card Weekend

Last week, I closed the regular season with a 5-2 record in my contest, but it ended up being a losing year for me at 55-59-4. I learned how difficult it is to pick the NFL when you are forced to take seven games. I would usually have two to four picks per week that I was confident in, but struggled to find the fifth, sixth and seventh options.

Now it’s time for the NFL playoffs, and we’re immediately treated to a loaded Wild Card weekend with two triple-headers. This week I will give a full preview of the games on a Periscope show I host called Weekend Warriors. The show will be live for an hour on Saturday at 11 a.m. ET and can be seen on Stadium’s Periscope channel or Stadium’s Twitter.

Here are my thoughts for Wild Card weekend.

Colts at Bills (-6.5): The line for this game opened as low as Bills -6.5 and as high as -7.5 when the schedule was set for the playoffs on Sunday evening. It settled in at Bills -7 on Monday and ticked down to -6.5 on Tuesday. The Bills are 13-3, and I wonder if they are currently the best team in the NFL — even better than the Chiefs.

Buffalo’s three losses this season came in a rare Tuesday matchup against the Titans, a rescheduled Monday game against the Chiefs and a barnburner against the Cardinals that required a Hail Mary. Those losses came in odd circumstances, and the Bills finished the season on a six-game win streak with a point spread cover in each victory.

I personally think this line is too high based on recent closing point spreads involving these two teams against the Steelers. The Colts closed as a one-point favorite at the Steelers in Week 16. They lost the game 28-24, but held a 24-7 lead at one point. As for the Bills, they were only a two-point favorite against the Steelers on a Sunday night game in Week 14. Things have changed over the last month, but there’s still line value in the Colts based on those short point spreads. I would’ve preferred this line getting a full touchdown, but I still would play Indianapolis at the current number. Be on the lookout before this game to see if it gets back to +7.

Pick: Colts +6.5

Rams at Seahawks (-3.5): These two teams met at the same stadium in Week 16 and the Seahawks closed as a 1.5-point favorite in a game Seattle won 20-9. The final score was a bit misleading as it was a one-possession game for the first 57 minutes. But with QB Jared Goff now trying to return from a thumb injury and inexperienced QB John Wolford coming off his first career NFL win, the ‘Hawks are currently the favorite at -3.5. Goff has been limited in practice this week and with the line dropping from Seahawks -5, it might be an indication that Goff could play.

Regardless of who starts for the Rams this weekend, I like the under. That’s because the Seahawks have been a different team during the back half of the season. In their first eight games, six of them went over the total (the two games that didn’t go over went under by one point). But in their last eight games, the under hit seven times. The only game that went over was last week’s matchup against the 49ers, and that was aided by a 34-point fourth quarter.

The under stretch for the Seahawks started in Week 10 when they played at the Rams, and the game was lined at 55.5, while two weeks ago the total for the two teams was 48. The under is currently set very low at 42.5, but it’s still the only way I can look based on the familiarity between the players and coaches. I prefer to bet this game by looking at the first-half under because the Seahawks are a team that tends to run the ball early, controlling the clock in the process. If the first half goes over the total, I will then look to bet the second-half under.

Pick: First-half under 21

Buccaneers (-8) at Washington: The Buccaneers opened as low as a 6.5-point favorite in this game shortly after Washington clinched the NFC East in the last game of the regular season. Unsurprisingly, the line was then bet up with a resistance point at -9. There has been money showing up on the under that was 46.5 earlier in the week, but it now sits at 44.5 or 45 depending on where you shop.

I agree with the move on the under, and it’s where I will look to play this game. I can see Tom Brady and the Buccaneers struggling against a strong Washington pass rush. However, I want to isolate Washington’s team total and bet against their underwhelming offense. Last week, QB Alex Smith and Washington’s offense only averaged four yards per play against an Eagles defense that consisted of backups. I really don’t like this matchup for Washington’s offense since Tampa is stout against the run. Expect for Washington to struggle to get points on the board.

Pick: Washington team total under 18.5

Ravens (-3.5) at Titans: This is the game I’m most excited to watch. The Titans shocked the Ravens in Baltimore last year in the postseason and followed it up with a huge regular-season win in the same building earlier this season. The line for this game has been going back and forth between Ravens -3 and -3.5. The Ravens have won five straight games, while the Titans needed clutch offensive plays to get past the 4-12 Texans and clinch the AFC South in Week 17.

The Ravens’ last three wins were against the Jaguars, Giants and Bengals, so this weekend’s spread might be inflated because of those three bad teams. As for Tennessee, I would consider the Titans a good team, but solely because of their offense. The defense has trouble getting off the field, and they only have 19 sacks this season (four of them came last week). I’m very confident that the Ravens will be able to score in this game.

Will the Titans be able to match the Ravens when they have the ball? Potentially, but it’s not something I feel comfortable betting on.

Pick: Ravens team total over 28.5

Bears at Saints (-10): As of Friday morning, I can’t find a bet that I like in this specific game. I personally made this line Saints -9.5, and that’s where the number was Thursday morning before going up to -10. That’s not enough for a value bet on the 8-8 Bears, who backed into the playoffs because the Cardinals lost to the Rams in Week 17.

I’m undecided on the total in this game at 47. The Bears have transformed into an over team in the last six games, but a lot of their offensive success was against the worst defenses in the league like the Lions, Texans, Vikings and Jaguars. The Saints defense is a huge step up in class for QB Mitch Trubisky, and I’m not sure if Chicago will be able to score enough to help this game reach the over.

The bet related to this game that I’m taking is a future on the Saints to win the NFC. If the favorites win in the NFC this week, then the Saints would host the Seahawks, and that’s a game in which I would like New Orleans. If the Rams beat the Seahawks, and the Buccaneers win on Saturday, then Tampa Bay would travel to New Orleans next weekend and the Saints have handily beat the Buccaneers in their two meetings this season. I really like the path for the Saints to at least get to the NFC Championship. It would be an added bonus if the Packers lost next week so that New Orleans could host the title game.

Pick: Saints to win NFC at +275 or better

Browns at Steelers (-6): The line for this game opened Steelers -3.5, but then news came out Tuesday morning that Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski tested positive for COVID-19 and will not be available. I would argue Stefanski is the most valuable coach in the postseason because he’s also the team’s play-caller. The first-year head coach has done a fantastic job getting the most out of the Browns’ offense, so not having him on the sideline is a significant downgrade for Cleveland. There are other COVID-19 issues with the Browns, including Pro Bowl guard Joel Bitonio testing positive and the team not being able to practice at their facility.

If everything was perfect, then I think Steelers -3.5 would be a good number for this game. I just can’t find a way to bet the Browns given the circumstances. There is a player prop I am eyeing in this matchup, but those aren’t available for this game at the time of writing. Check my Twitter on Saturday or Sunday morning, and I will tweet out what I bet from this game.

Pick: Pass