With the NFL regular season finally coming to an end, it’s time to look at the betting lines for the upcoming Wild Card round. This week’s game feature a number of rematches from early in the season.
I’ve provided you with where I would’ve set each line and an early betting take for each, so you’re prepared earlier than the completion to bet on this week’s games.
Seahawks at 49ers (-10.5), Total: 43.5
Where I set the line: 49ers -8.5, Total: 45
The Seahawks got some help from the Detroit Lions on Sunday night, placing them in the final spot of the NFC Playoffs. The problem with that is they face their division rival, the same San Francisco 49ers that already embarrassed them twice this season. Since their most recent matchup was less than four weeks ago, let’s look at how that game panned out.
The 49ers controlled their Week 15 game from start to finish. Seattle had six points and just 210 yards for most of the game until a garbage-time touchdown drive inflated their numbers. Brock Purdy was efficient, completing 17-of-26 passes for 211 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Geno Smith, who finished with a 45.5 QBR, failed to create any big plays. Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf had quiet performances, and the Seahawks were just 4-13 on third-down conversions. The 49ers ran for 170 yards and won the time-of-possession battle, too. Seattle only had 70 yards rushing, which is an aspect of their offense that’s been their Achilles’ heel through key parts of the season.
From Weeks 10 through 15, the Seahawks averaged only 62 rushing yards per game. They improved in their final three contests, running for 133, 198 and 197 against the Chiefs, Jets and Rams. Seattle is a huge underdog in this game for a reason. To be competitive, they’ll need to be effective on the ground, so their offense doesn’t rest solely on Smith’s shoulders.
Early Betting Take: The accolades of the 49ers, arguably the NFL’s hottest team, are well-known at this point. San Francisco has won 10 straight games by an average margin of 16 ppg. They have more No. 1 statistical rankings on defense than any other unit in the NFL, and their offense is dynamic and healthy. I show value on the Seahawks only because this is a familiar opponent, but I’m not running to the window to bet on this game. For now, I’d like to see where the lines move. If it drops down at all, value will rise in San Francisco.
Chargers at Jaguars (-1.5), Total: 47.5
Where I set the line: Jaguars -1, Total: 48
This will probably be the hardest game to figure out this weekend. I know I’ll need a few days to find the best betting angles in this matchup. In that vein, it makes sense this matchup displays the closest betting line of the Wild Card round. As a reminder, please pay attention to the betting videos and articles provided by Ryan Reynolds, myself and others leading up to this game.
The Jaguars and Chargers are both playing their best football to end the regular season. Before putting in Chase Daniel in the fourth quarter of their Week 18 contest, the Chargers were feisty in a meaningless game at Denver. They won four straight games leading up to Week 18, including key wins against the Titans and Dolphins.
In that span, they held teams to 11 ppg. Entering the postseason, their defense is healthier than it’s been all year. Justin Herbert has been amazing all season (68.2% completion percentage, 4,739 passing yards, 25 TDs, 10 INTs), and their offense has been more efficient than usual lately. Defensive end Joey Bosa adds an exciting element to their defense they haven’t had for most of the year. Their inadequacies (like their league-worst 5.3 yards per carry allowed) could be a big issue against Jaguars running back Travis Etienne.
The Jaguars ended their regular season winning five straight games, including two knockout blows to the Tennessee Titans. Trevor Lawrence is the biggest part of their success through the second half of the season. Through his last nine games, Lawrence has thrown 15 touchdowns and only two interceptions, and his completion percentage is a sky-high 70%. Jacksonville is full of dynamic playmakers like Etienne, Christian Kirk, Zay Jones and Evan Engram. The Jaguars’ defense, while not elite, is equipped with young, hyper-athletic players who readily make game-changing plays.
Early Betting Take: Right now, I don’t show any value on either side. Jacksonville deserves to be a short favorite at home, and this feels like a true pick-em. More to come as the week goes on.
Dolphins at Bills (-10.5), Total: 44
Where I set the line: Bills -10, Total: 46
This is a straightforward handicap with one fundamental question – how are the Dolphins going to keep up with the Buffalo Bills, at Orchard Park, and likely without Tua Tagovailoa? At the time of writing this article, Tagovailoa is still in concussion protocol. Tagovailoa’s scary concussion in Week 4 against the Bengals still haunts the Dolphins, who now need to express extra caution with their franchise quarterback.
Clearly, Tagovailoa gives Miami its best chance to win. Backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has a dislocated pinky on his throwing hand, which doesn’t present a promising outlook for his chances to play. That leaves Skylar Thompson to start at quarterback on Sunday.
Thompson played well enough in a playoff-clinching win Sunday against the New York Jets. He was 20-31 for 152 yards had zero TDs and zero INTs. Against the vaunted Bills’ defense, I don’t have much confidence in a Thompson-led Miami offense.
Early Betting Take: If you like the Dolphins, you’re betting on Mike McDaniel crafting a masterful offensive plan to throw off an aggressive, talented Buffalo defense. You’re also betting on Miami’s defense, which is average based on most metrics, to limit Josh Allen and one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL. Right now, I’m only looking at Buffalo’s side.
Giants at Vikings (-3), Total: 47.5
Where I set the line: Vikings -3.5, Total: 46
I wouldn’t be surprised if the Vikings blew the doors off the Giants at home, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Giants ended up winning this game. That’s the general thesis on why this game is difficult to pick.
The Giants are led by, Brian Daboll, arguably one of the best coaches in the NFL this season. Entering the 2022 season, the Giants didn’t have a winning record since September 2016. That changed quickly under Daboll. The Giants started off 6-1 this season, with their only loss against the Cowboys.
After that, they experienced a mid-season lull, and their offense was exposed numerous times against better defenses. But New York landed back on its feet and found ways to beat the Commanders and Colts, allowing them to clinch a playoff berth before Week 18. The Giants will have a rematch against the Minnesota Vikings, who they nearly defeated on Christmas Eve.
New York is an under-talented but disciplined, down-hill defense that’s seen more success pressuring opposing quarterbacks in recent weeks. On offense, they rely on a top-5 rushing attack that averages 4.8 yards per carry and 148.2 yards per game. Daniel Jones has looked more comfortable as a passer, although he rarely executes game-changing throws downfield.
If they want to beat Minnesota, they’ll need to take shots downfield and present some of the big-play ability Justin Jefferson and the Vikings’ offense consistently produces. The Giants gained 445 total yards against Minnesota three weeks ago, so that’s promising.
Most of us probably know the Vikings’ story at this point. I can’t consider the Vikings’ defense overrated anymore because I think everyone knows they stink. Their metrics rank among the bottom four teams in the NFL in many areas, including points allowed, yards allowed and yards per pass (an egregious 7.3) allowed. Kirk Cousins has led an effective offense all season, and they’ve been brilliant in one-score games (11-0 in those situations this season). Despite finishing 13-4, the Vikings have a negative point differential (-0.2) to end the season.
Early Betting Take: I give the Vikings slightly more credit than the sportsbooks in this matchup, although Minnesota felt fortunate to get a win against the Giants last time. New York turned the ball over twice, and the Vikings needed a 61-yard field goal to seal the game. If Minnesota makes one or two mistakes, they could easily lose this game.
Let’s see if this line moves at all but for now, I would lean on the Vikings taking care of business. Even with their underwhelming showings all season, they’re at home, and their offense is considerably more talented than New York’s.
Ravens at Bengals (-6.5), Total: 43.5
Where I set the line: Bengals -7, 44
This line has already moved up from Bengals -5.5 to Bengals -6.5, and I think that makes sense. Obviously, the big question in this game is: Will Lamar Jackson play? Jackson is battling through a PCL injury to his knee, and everything I’ve read about the injury says it takes a full five weeks to recover. If Jackson does play, he’ll be right on the border of that timeline, and it’s realistic to assume he won’t be quite as dynamic without a trustworthy knee. If Jackson doesn’t suit up, there’s not much to like about the Ravens’ offense lately.
The Bengals are right there, with the 49ers as one of the hottest teams in the NFL. Joe Burrow continues to fit his “Joe Cool” moniker, playing nearly flawless football down the stretch. Thanks to Burrow and a healthy offense, the Bengals have won eight straight games, and they’re averaging nearly 30 ppg during that span.
Their defense rises to the occasion when it needs to. They allow only 20 ppg, and they’re top 10 in opponent red zone success, opponent fourth down conversion rate and opponent yards per rush. Their secondary is among the best in the league – they’ve held opposing quarterbacks to a league-low 58.86%.
The Ravens’ defense is playing better, but their offense has played poorly. Since Jackson went down to injury, Baltimore’s only mustered 12.5 ppg. They’ve barely eclipsed 300 yards in most of those contests, and their passing attack has only surpassed 200 yards in their Week 18 showdown against Cincinnati. They never led in that game, so that’s a lot about garbage time yards since they were playing from behind.
Early Betting Take: I have a hard time thinking the Ravens will hang with Cincinnati. The Bengals have all the momentum, and they have a significant advantage at quarterback, whether Jackson plays or not. I think Cincinnati makes a great teaser leg (-6.5 down to -0.5), and I don’t think taking the Bengals’ -6.5 is a bad bet either. They’ll probably win by more than a touchdown.
Cowboys at Bucs (+3), Total:
Where I set the line: Bucs +2, Total
This is a rematch from Week 1 of the regular season, and it’s probably not the opponent Dallas was hoping for. The Cowboys have been bested by Tom Brady and the Bucs in the first week of the last two seasons. Though one thing is for sure – neither team can say they’re peaking before the playoffs.
The Cowboys have become famous for floundering at the end of a promising regular season campaign. I’m concerned we may see the same thing again on Monday night. Looking at the last five weeks, this is what Dallas has unimpressively shown us:
- In Week 14, they barely beat the NFL’s worst team, the Houston Texans. Dak Prescott was 24-39 for 284 yards, one TD and two INTs.
- In Week 15, they gave up a 27-10 lead on the Jaguars and lost in OT.
- In Week 16, they outlasted the Eagles without Jalen Hurts in a close 40-34 contest at home.
- In Week 17, they eventually pulled ahead of the Ryan Tannehill-less Titans; it looked harder than it should have.
- In Week 18, Dallas ended their regular season with a pitiful loss to the Washington Commanders. Prescott had his worst performance of the year (14-37, 128 yards, one TD, one INT).
The early luster of Dallas’ defense has worn off quite a bit, too. The Cowboys have allowed an average of more than 27 ppg in their last five contests. They haven’t been particularly stifling in any one area, and we’re hearing less from players like Micah Parsons or Trevon Diggs. They’re just not making as many big plays.
Meanwhile, the pedestrian nature of the Bucs’ offense has been well-documented. They’re averaging less than 20 ppg, they can’t score in the red zone (51.06% TD percentage, 25th overall), and their 3.3 yards per carry is last in the NFL. But here’s the good news: Brady and the offense finally looked like themselves in the last game that counted.
Brady was flawless, completing 34-of-45 passes for 432 yards, three TDs, and zero INTs in an NFC South-clinching win against a formidable Carolina defense. Although their run game wasn’t effective, Brady distributed the ball to eight different receivers in Week 17, including three game-changing touchdowns to Mike Evans. It was the kind of efficiency and chemistry we’ve been waiting to see from a recent Super Bowl winner.
Early Betting Take: The sharp betting community can’t be in love with either of these squads, so I’m not sure if this line will change at all. As it stands now, I show value on the Bucs. They’re a home underdog, with the most accomplished quarterback the league has ever seen, and they still have many of their Super Bowl contributors from two short seasons ago.