NFL Wild Card Round Betting Preview
It’s finally time for some NFL Playoff action! The action starts on Saturday as Buffalo heads to Houston. The second game features Tennessee at New England while the two NFC games will be played on Sunday as Minnesota heads down to New Orleans and Seattle treks east to take on Philadelphia.
Buffalo Bills at Houston Texans -2.5 O/U 44
The Buffalo Bills return to the playoffs after losing to Jacksonville, 10-3, in 2017’s Wild Card round. Their last postseason victory came in 1995. Quarterback Josh Allen had a solid season that saw him throw for over 3,000 yards while tossing 20 touchdowns and a modest nine interceptions. However, the strength of the offense is a rushing attack that was eighth in the league. The Bills posted three 500+ yard rushers in Devin Singletary (775), Frank Gore (599) and Allen (510). But offense isn’t why the Bills are here. The defense ranked second in the NFL in points allowed per game (16.2) and showcased an ability to stop both the pass (4th) and run (10th).
Houston is quite the opposite as it relied on the combination of DeShaun Watson (3,852 yards, 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions) and DeAndre Hopkins (104 receptions, 1165 yards and seven touchdowns). They also boasted the ninth-ranked rushing attack led by Carlos Hyde who topped 1,000 yards.
Defensively, the Texans had a lot of holes. They allowed the fifth-most yards per game in the NFL which resulted in a dismal 26th DVOA ranking. Houston was also the second-worst team in the league at stopping opponents on third down. They do welcome back star defensive lineman J.J. Watt and yes, Week 17’s game vs. Tennessee in which they allowed 35 points was meaningless, but this remains the weakest defensive team in the postseason. Keep in mind, Houston managed to go 10-6 despite being outscored on the season. Buffalo meanwhile was a healthy +55 in scoring.
Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots -4 O/U 44
The Tennessee Titans will be heading up to the northeast to take on the AFC East champion New England Patriots. There’s been two-way action on the side while the total was played up from an opener of 42.5.
The Titans are making a surprise playoff appearance this season after demoting quarterback Marcus Mariota in favor of Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill has been excellent since taking over the starting job, throwing for 2,742 yards with 22 touchdowns, 6 interceptions, and a 117.5 QB Rating. Running back Derrick Henry led the NFL in rushing with 1,540 yards and 16 touchdowns. It’s remarkable that the offensive finished 6th in DVOA considering they netted 14 points combined in three of Mariota’s starts.
Tennessee’s defense is nothing to sleep on either. Tennessee finished the season 12th in points allowed and 12th against the rush. They had three players with 100+ tackles this season and Harold Landry III led the way with nine sacks.
The Patriots’ offense regressed in a big way this season. Tom Brady finished with a respectable 4,057 yards to go along with just 24 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Overall, the unit ended up seventh in scoring but that was in large part due to a soft schedule and help from one of the league’s best defenses consistently putting the offense in good position to score.
The New England defense was on a historic pace through the first half of the season. They leveled off a bit in the second-half but still led the NFL in a number of categories. The Patriots allowed the fewest total yards per game (275.9), the fewest points per game (14.1), and they were the best third down defense (24.1%). New England was excellent at stopping both the rush (sixth) and the pass (second).
Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints -8 O/U 49.5
The biggest point spread of the weekend at Minnesota finds itself north of a touchdown underdog vs. New Orleans. The Vikings limp into the playoffs after losing their last two games but their body of work is solid. They ranked in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive DVOA. Kirk Cousins caught a lot of flack but still managed to throw for 3,603 yards and 26 touchdowns to go along with six interceptions (107.4 rating). Dalvin Cook was finally healthy most of this season and rushed for 1,135 yards.
The Minnesota defense, led by Danielle Hunter who compiled 14.5 sacks and 57 hurries, was better than some of its raw numbers. The Vikings finished seventh in DVOA and played six games vs. teams that ranked in the top 10 in offensive DVOA.
Despite losing Drew Brees for an extended stretch, New Orleans’ offense was once again one of the league’s elite units. Wide receiver Michael Thomas cemented himself as the best receiver in the NFL after putting up a record-breaking season that saw him catch 149 balls for 1,725 yards and nine touchdowns. But lost in all of the sexy stats the offense posted was a defense that was well above league average. They were one of the league’s best teams at stopping the run (fourth) and owned the sixth-best third down defense. Cameron Jordan put together a career season that saw him tally 15.5 sacks and 52 QB hurries.
Seattle Seahawks -1.5 at Philadelphia Eagles O/U 46
The Seattle Seahawks find themselves as the only road favorite of the four Wild Card matchups. Seattle put together a solid season that saw them go into the final week of the regular season with a chance to win the NFC West. Russell Wilson had one of his best seasons of his career as he threw for 4,110 yards, 31 touchdowns and five interceptions. And the running game finished fourth-best in the NFL. Even with all of the injuries, Seattle managed 125 yards on the ground in Week 17 against one of the league’s best defenses in San Francisco.
The Seahawks defense owns some of the weakest numbers of any team in the postseason. They were 26th in total yards allowed per game, 27th against the pass, and 22nd against the rush. Look no further than Week 16 that saw Seattle allow over 400 yards at home to Arizona in a 27-13 loss.
Philadelphia closed out its season on a four-game winning streak and needed every win to slip into the playoffs. Considering how depleted his receiving corp was this season, Carson Wentz’s 4,039 yards, 27 touchdowns and seven interceptions was very impressive. Overall, Philly’s stats (12th in DVOA) fall right in line with that of a 9-7 team. One of the main reasons you see Seattle favored in this contest is strength of schedule. The Seahawks played arguably the toughest slate in the league while Philadelphia played one of the weakest.