Super Wild Card Weekend: Betting Picks

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Here is my gambling break down of the six NFL playoff games this weekend. I’ll dive a little deeper than in the regular season because we only have 6 games, not 12-16. Plus, it’s the playoffs! Real quick before we get into the games, I have to humble brag because I ended up going 12-4 in my Week 18 Picks last week. Let’s hope I can keep the heat going this week and through the playoffs.

Las Vegas @ Cincinnati

These two teams played on 11/21 and Cincinnati won 32-13. Although plenty of time has passed, I’m not sure how much has actually changed. The Bengals have looked very good, especially on offense, thanks to an unbelievably talent core of Joe Burrow, Ja’marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, and Joe Mixon. The Raiders have stumbled at times, and just haven’t looked like the same team since Gruden stepped down early in the season. Since Gruden stepped down on 10/11, the Raiders have topped 20pts in just 5 of 14 games. However, over their last two games to end the season, they are averaging 29 points. Let’s take a look at what the stats say.

Cincy ranks 7th in PPG this year and Vegas ranks 18th. Cincy ranks 17th in opponent PPG and Vegas ranks 26th. Despite having star running backs Josh Jacobs and Joe Mixon, neither team ranks in the top 25 in yards per carry. Defensively, however, both teams are top of the league in opponent yards per carry: CIN is 13th and LV is 10th.

So, both teams struggle to run the ball, but also defend the run very well. Both teams thus rely on the passing attack for most of their success. Cincinnati ranks 2nd in the NFL in yards per completion while Las Vegas sit in 11th. When it comes to defending the pass, Cincy ranks 13th in opponent yards per completion and Vegas ranks 6th.

These two teams matchup pretty well so far, with a slight edge towards the Bengals. Shifting to situational rates* might begin to show a different picture. Over the last month of the season, Cincinnati ranks 31st in offensive run success and 12th in pass success. Vegas actually ranks 8th in run success and 5th in pass success. On the defensive side, Cincinnati ranks 30th in run success and 19th in pass success. Vegas ranks 2nd and 13th in the same stats. 

The stats have me leaning toward LV +5.5, however taking into the account that the Raiders are ranked 32nd in Red Zone defense and both teams rank in the bottom half in third down defense, I’m going with the over 48.5 in this one. Who doesn’t love rooting for points?

Pick: Over 48.5

New England @ Buffalo

The rubber match! It’s not very often we get to see a trilogy in the NFL, and this one gives us heated division rivals trying to settle their 1-1 regular season record. Both away teams won their game during the regular season, which doesn’t bode well for the Bills. But let’s see what the stats have to say.

Both teams rank in the Top 6 in PPG and sit 1st and 2nd in defensive PPG. The Patriots rank 12th in rushing yards per carry and the Bills are 6th. NE ranks 13th in yards per completion while BUF ranks 17th. Defensively, NE ranks 25th in yards per carry and 12th in yards per completion. BUF ranks 11th and 3rd in the same stats. Edge: Buffalo.

In the Red Zone and on third down, these teams are pretty similar. Offensively, the Patriots are 10th in third down conversions and 11th in Red Zone scoring. The Bills are 3rd and 7th, respectively. On the defensive side, New England ranks 5th in third downs and 2nd in Red Zone percentage. Buffalo ranks 1st and 6th in the same stats. Slight edge: Buffalo.

Everything points to Buffalo in this matchup, and as a Patriots fan, even I have to admit that this seems like a mismatch. The Patriots limped into the playoffs yet again losing 3 out of the last 4 games of the regular season. Over the last month, the Patriots defense ranks 28th in run success and 23rd in pass success. Their offensive success rates have skyrocketed and they sit 1st in run success and 6th in pass success. A flip from the beginning of the season.

Despite Buffalo seeming like the “easy play,” there’s one thing we have to factor in: the weather. In games that are 31 degrees or less, Josh Allen is 3-2 with a 50% completion rate, averages 166 yds/game, with 6 TD and 7 INT and an average passer rating of 62. The high in Buffalo on Saturday is currently 11 degrees, with a low of 4. Allen himself has come out this week and said that he has poor circulation in his feet and sometimes they go numb if he doesn’t keep them warm during games. 

This all sounds well and good, and I’m trying to convince the Pats fan inside of me that the team has a chance. However, I think Buffalo still wins this one, but I will be going with the under 44. Cold weather makes it hard to catch passes and it’s miserable to try and stay warm.

Pick: Under 44

Philadelphia @ Tampa Bay

Here’s a blatant stat for you: Out of all 14 playoff teams, the Eagles are 1-7 in games this year where their opponent ended the season with a winning record. The only team they beat? The 9-8 Saints. Since 2017, there have been six rookie head coaches to make the playoffs and they combine for a 3-6 record. Only Matt LaFleur has made it passed the Divisional Round, and that is because he was the #2 seed and received a bye. His team ultimately lost in the NFC Championship game.

You would think that I’d be pounding the drum for Tampa here. But not so fast, the stats actually might paint a different picture. Let’s run down the offensive stats first. 

PPG: TB 2nd / PHI 12th                                     Yds per carry: TB 15th / PHI 4th

Yds per completion: TB 12th / PHI 4th             Red Zone scoring: TB 2nd / PHI 8th

Third down conversion: TB 2nd / PHI 4th

Offensively, these teams match up very similarly. Surprisingly, Philly actually has the edge in two categories. 

Here is the matchup on defense.

PPG: TB 5th / PHI 18th                                      Yds per carry: TB 15th / PHI 7th

Yds per completion: TB 1st / PHI 2nd               Red Zone scoring: TB 10th / PHI 29th

Third down conversion: TB 12th / PHI 23rd

Tampa has the clear advantage on defense when it comes to points allowed, Red Zone, and third down. I think that is enough for them to win the game, but to cover 8.5 points? I’m not so sure. Tampa beat Philly 28-22 back in October and I could see something along the lines of as 24-17 game this time around. I’m actually going with another total bet, and taking the under. I think the Tampa defense will be good enough to limit Philly’s offense for the most part. Also factoring in that Philly’s defense is still very good at limiting yards and that the Bucs are down to just Gronk and Mike Evans (oh yeah, and that Brady guy) on offense. 

Pick: Under 46

San Francisco @ Dallas

The money has been pouring in on the 49ers, which makes me a little nervous. The line has come down from 3.5 to 3. Both of these teams have been Jekyll and Hyde this season. Some games they look like Super Bowl contenders, and others they seemingly can’t get out of their own way. Statistically, these teams are similar in most categories, but I’m going to point out where they differ and why it’s important. 

San Francisco runs are very – nearly perfectly – balanced offense. They average 29.4 carries per game (5th most in the NFL) and 30.2 pass attempts per game (29th in the NFL). Dallas averages 27.8 carries (12th) and 38.1 (6th) pass attempt per game. Dallas is a pass heavy offense, which makes sense when you have Dak throwing to Ceedee Lamb, Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Dalton Schultz. Zeke really struggled this year, so they weren’t able to rely on the run game for a ton of production. SF ranks       16th in yards per carry 1st(!) in yards per completion. DAL ranks 8th in yards per carry and 7th in yards per completion.

So, let’s look at how each team plays defense. SF ranks 7th in yards per carry and 5th in yards per completion. The DAL defense ranks 23rd in yards per carry and 29th in yards per completion. That’s not good. In fact, over the last three games SF actually ranks 1st and 3rd while Dallas is 11th and 17th. Both teams have played better recently, but SF is arguably the best in the NFL when it comes to limiting yards. 

SF also has the 1st ranked Red Zone offense in the NFL. Dallas’ Red Zone defense ranks 21st. I’m following the money on this one. Give me SF with the points, and I’ll also be hitting the ML +135 for my first non-total bet of the weekend. Part of this is me fading Mike McCarthy. I just don’t think he’s a good coach, and he seemingly always find a way to make a bonehead decision during a game to cost his team.

Pick: SF +3.5 & ML (I locked this bet in early in the week at 3.5, but I still like it at +3)

Pittsburgh @ Kansas City

I’m not going to spend a ton of time breaking down stats for this game. KC ranks at or near the top in most categories, while PIT ranks at or near the bottom in most. The only stats PIT outranks KC in are Red Zone Defense (5th vs. 16th) and third down defense (7th vs. 18th). Pittsburgh MIGHT be able to limit points if KC makes it to the Red Zone, but the thing we all know about this offense is that they’re almost just as likely to score from the 40 as they are from the 20. I think there’s a slight chance that Pittsburgh can control the clock and get Najee Harris going against the KC defense that ranks 31st in yards per carry (only better than, wait for it, Pittsburgh!) 12.5 is a lot of points for a playoff game. 

I know I’ve been shredding Big Ben over the last few weeks saying that he’s done and that it looks painful for him to throw the ball. But after watching them somehow beat the Titans, Browns, and Ravens, I just can’t lay the 12.5 points. I understand that KC just beat them 36-10 three weeks ago. But Mike Tomlin made adjustments and held the Chiefs to 1 TD and only 13pts in the second half of that game. I’m probably going to regret not just taking KC -12.5 but oh well. Give me the total here. For what it’s worth, I put a half-unit on PIT ML +500 earlier in the week. You know, just in case. 

Pick: Over 46

Arizona @ Los Angeles Rams

Divisional rivals. Two teams headed in opposite directions. I’m honestly not really sure what has happened to the Cardinals over the latter half of the season. I know they’ve been dealing with injuries, but most everyone is back except for DeAndre Hopkins, and they still don’t look right. Similarly to the NE/BUF game, these two teams sit at 1-1 against each other this year and are looking to break the tie. Arizona won 37-20 in October and LA won 30-23 in December. Interestingly enough, the team that scored first in both games ended up losing. So it might be worth a live ML bet in that scenario. 

The Rams rank 4th in offensive yards per play while the Cardinals rank 15th. In defensive yards per play, the Rams are 10thand the Cardinals at 18th. Both teams rank in the Top 7 in third down offense, but the Cardinals are much better in third down defense (10th vs. 21st). Over the last three games LA ranks 12th in Red Zone offense and 3rd in Red Zone defense. Arizona ranks 23rd and 24th in the same stats. 

Both teams rank in the bottom third in yards per carry, but the Rams rank 5th in defensive yards per carry while the Cardinals are 26th. The Rams are 3rd in yards per completion and the Cardinals are 18th

The stats show that the Rams are the better team, and given the eye-ball test, they’ve also been playing better recently too.

Pick: LAR -4

*Situational success rates are defined by as the following: “A play is considered successful when it gains at least 40% of yards-to-go on 1st down, 60% of yards-to-go on 2nd down and 100% of yards-to-go on 3rd or 4th down.”

About Post Author

Jared Mello

Avid Boston sports fan. Lover of all things sports betting. I try to bring a realistic approach to the sports that I cover.
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  • Avid Boston sports fan. Lover of all things sports betting. I try to bring a realistic approach to the sports that I cover.

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