During the NFL season, Stadium sports betting analyst Nate Jacobson will break down every single point spread using lines as of Friday morning. Here are his thoughts on the Wild Card slate.
Note: Nate will discuss all of his NFL bets on the Sharp Lessons podcast that drops every Tuesday and Thursday. Subscribe on Spotify and Apple for episodes and follow Stadium Bets on Twitter for more sports betting content.
Seahawks at 49ers (-9.5): Every matchup in Wild Card weekend is a rematch from a regular season game, and this one is the third meeting between the two NFC West teams. The 49ers won both games with their most recent victory in Week 15 on a Thursday night. San Francisco closed as a three-point favorite in Brock Purdy’s first road start and won that game 21-13 with Seattle’s only touchdown coming in the final four minutes of the game.
The 49ers clinched the division that night with three games remaining and closed the season on a 10-game win streak. San Francisco used the last three games of the season to get healthier (they didn’t have Deebo Samuel in that Week 15 game) and coasted to the No. 2 seed in the NFC.
The Seahawks greatly exceeded their preseason expectations, but struggled in the second half of the season. They went 3-5 in their final eight games with two narrow wins against the Rams (games featuring John Wolford and Baker Mayfield), plus a victory against the Jets in which Mike White wasn’t healthy.
The line was 49ers -10 early in the week and has ticked down to -9.5, with the total going from 43.5 to 42. It’s not ideal for Seattle to now play the earliest game of the round after needing to exert a lot of energy on the final day of the regular season in order to make the postseason. This high point spread will keep me off betting on the 49ers in Purdy’s first playoff start.
Chargers (-2.5) at Jaguars: The quarterback matchup in this game makes it one of the most intriguing contests of the weekend, as 2020’s No. 6 overall pick Justin Herbert faces 2021’s No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence in their playoff debuts.
The Jaguars won the AFC South in Week 18 with a non-cover win against a Titans team starting Josh Dobbs. It wasn’t an impressive showing from Jacksonville, but they got the job done in a high-leverage game.
The Chargers were part of one of the most perplexing games in Week 18, as they played their starters well into the second half against the Broncos even though a Ravens loss earlier in the day ensured Brandon Staley’s team would be the No. 5 seed in the AFC playoffs. Joey Bosa and Mike Williams both left that games with injuries, but both are trending toward playing.
Playing starters in that game looks worse with this matchup scheduled for Saturday. Now the Chargers have a short week of preparation plus a cross-country flight after needlessly playing key players in Week 18. I personally believe this line should be a pick’em or have the Jaguars as a small favorite, meaning we’re getting a discount on Jacksonville after their unconvincing performance in Week 18.
Pick: Jaguars +2.5
Dolphins at Bills (-13): This is one of the two playoff games where a QB injury is impacting the point spread. The number moved from -9 to -13 with the news that Tua Tagovailoa was ruled out. The line did go down toward the Dolphins on Tuesday, which possibly indicated that Tagovailoa had a shot of playing, but head coach Mike McDaniel confirmed the news on Wednesday and the line skyrocketed up while the total dropped from 47 to 43.5.
These two divisional foes last met on a Saturday night in Week 15 in chilly and snowy Buffalo with Tagovailoa playing. But the Bills closed -7 and won 32-29 in a game where the Dolphins impressed on offense. The injury situation has me completely off this game with Skylar Thompson expected to start.
Giants at Vikings (-3): This is a quick rematch from a Week 16 game in Minnesota where the Vikings won 27-24 on a last-second field goal. The Vikings closed -4.5 on that Saturday afternoon, so there’s been a slight adjustment to the point spread for this playoff game.
The Giants really impressed me in that matchup, as they outgained the Vikings 6.7-5.0 on a yards per play basis in their second-straight road game. As for this playoff battle, keep in mind that the Giants wisely rested starters in Week 18 with the No. 6 seed locked up.
Minnesota recently lost OT Brian O’Neill to a season-ending injury, while center Garrett Bradbury just returned to practice this week after missing time with a back injury. I don’t trust the Vikings as a favorite — and they’ve had a lot of luck all season. You don’t often see a team that wins 13 games sporting a negative point differential. It’s not my favorite bet of the season, but I will take a shot on the Giants at this price.
Pick: Giants +3
Ravens at Bengals (-9.5): There are a lot of rematches this round, but nothing is more recent as this game between two teams who just played in Week 18 on the same field. The Bengals closed -11.5 in a game where the Ravens started third-string QB Anthony Brown (RB J.K. Dobbins and TE Mark Andrews were also inactive). Baltimore was still playing for the division, but they took a cautious approach last week knowing they were unlikely to win that game.
The biggest question about this game was if QB Lamar Jackson would be able to return after missing the last month with a knee injury, but with him implying on Twitter that he’ll miss another week, we’ll see Tyler Huntley start or maybe even Brown if Huntley is still injured (the total in this game has dropped from 43.5 to 40.5).
My initial thought on this game was to target the under, as I was hoping Jackson would play and I could bet first-half under 21.5 and full-game under 44, but those numbers are no longer available. That being said, the under still might be good in this game even at a lower number. I also have some interest in the Ravens if this line gets to +10. Since Jackson is unlikely to play, I’m in no rush to bet on the Ravens and I’ll wait until game day to make my decisions.
Pick: Closer to kickoff, consider Ravens plus the points and/or under 40.5
Cowboys (-2.5) at Buccaneers: This matchup seemed inevitable during the last few weeks of the season, and up until last weekend, I thought the Cowboys would be at least a field goal favorite in this potential game. But the Cowboys looked terrible in Week 18, and the point spread for this game has gone in the Buccaneers’ direction.
It’s hard to argue against the move toward Tampa after what we last saw of Dallas. The Cowboys lost 26-6 to a Commanders team starting rookie Sam Howell in a game where Dallas was playing for a chance to win the NFC East if the Eagles would have lost. Dak Prescott went 14-37 passing and the Cowboys’ offense had 2.8 yards per play.
The Buccaneers clinched the NFC South in Week 17 and gave their starters less than a half of playing time at the Falcons last week. Tampa Bay has greatly disappointed this year, going 8-9 and needing some improbable comebacks to win games during the second half of the season. This is a poorly coached team that is getting respect in the betting market based on Tom Brady’s reputation.
Dallas’ poor showing last week creates a chance to bet on them at a cheaper price. Because the Buccaneers have done well rallying late in games, I’m thinking of splitting a bet into Cowboys first half and full game. With the early interest in Brady and the Bucs, my bets on Dallas will likely come on Monday as I try to find a better price than the current market is offering.
Pick: Wait to bet Cowboys -0.5 first half and -2.5 full game