Betting Against the Spread: NFL Wild Card Weekend

Could we see all blowouts this weekend or will there be an upset?

I took Week 17 off because to me it's just too hard to wager on a slate of NFL games that featured a ton of teams with nothing to play for. Things don't really change as much when it comes to handicapping the playoffs. This first round in particular seems like it'll feature a bunch of blowouts, but I'll break down all four games and give my thoughts and trends.

 

Record: 43-31-3

 

Note: All times are ET.

 

Tennessee Titans (9-7) at Kansas City Chiefs (10-6), 4:20 p.m. (Sat.)

The Titans made the playoffs despite limping down the stretch and losing three of their last four. I've been really disappointed with Marcus Mariota this season and it seems like he's regressed a bit in this offense. Derrick Henry will start at running back with DeMarco Murray dealing with a torn MCL, and he had an underwhelming performance last week against the Jaguars. The surprise for Tennessee is a defense that clamps down on the run for the most part and has had some success against the pass. The Titans forced four Jags turnovers in the 15-10 win in Week 17. After a rough stretch, Kansas City finished the season with four impressive wins. You know the weapons that the Chiefs have in Kareem Hunt, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. Their defense has tightened up as of late although they did get a steady diet of weak offenses down the stretch. Last year, the Titans went into Kansas City and won 19-17 in a game that saw them outgain the Chiefs. Tennessee is a terrible team against the spread on the road with just eight covers in its last 24 contests away from home. Kansas City has failed to cover in 12 of its last 14 playoff games and six of its last seven in the Wild Card Round. I have not been that impressed with Tennessee, but I'm also not laying that many points with the Chiefs. SELECTION: Under 44.5 (Chiefs 24-17)

 

Atlanta Falcons (10-6) at Los Angeles Rams (11-5), 8:15 p.m. (Sat.)

Sean McVay figures to be named the Coach of the Year after what he did with the Rams and specifically this offense. Los Angeles has probably one of the worst WR corps in the league yet Jared Goff is putting up very good numbers. Sammy Watkins isn't what he used to be and Robert Woods doesn't inspire much fear in defenses and the same can be said for rookie Cooper Kupp. The Rams’ defense has struggled a bit as of late allowing 107 points over their last four games. They've been beaten by the run at times, especially at home allowing 139 yards to the Eagles and 171 to the 49ers. The Falcons are playing their third road game over the last four weeks so I wonder if that's a factor at all. The offense has been broken much of the year with Matt Ryan struggling to connect at times. If he can connect with Julio Jones for a few big plays then we could see an upset in this one. Atlanta has gone under in five straight contests while the Rams have gone over in their last five. Last year, the Falcons won this game 42-14 on the road, but these two teams couldn't be more different. It's weird that I don't still believe in the Rams and think they are vulnerable against the right team, but I also don't think the Falcons are the right team. Atlanta went 5-3 on the road and has playoff experience. I think we've missed some value considering the spread was once as high as 7. Still, I'll take the road team in this one. SELECTION: Falcons +5.5 (Rams 24-21)

 

Buffalo Bills (9-7) at Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6), 1:05 p.m. (Sun.)

The feel-good story of the playoffs is the Bills, who got in by virtue of the Bengals win over the Ravens. Buffalo fans are trying to get good karma for their team by donating money to Andy Dalton and Tyler Boyd's charity causes. I've said it all along that the fans deserve this, but the organization itself doesn't considering how they've treated Tyrod Taylor (above, right). They should have never yanked him for Nathan Peterman in a game that should have cost them the playoffs but didn't. On the field, it's important that LeSean McCoy plays because they need the run game to take pressure off the pass. McCoy was able to practice a bit this week and will probably give it a go, but how healthy will he be? Buffalo's offense has not turned it over in the last three games. The Bills’ defense has been gashed on the ground meaning Leonard Fournette could be factor. Still, are you willing to back Blake Bortles in a big game? This team had seven turnovers in losses to the 49ers and Titans to close out the season. We know how good Jacksonville’s defense is and the low total reflects that. I think this number is way too big for a team with momentum on the road and a lower score expected. SELECTION: Bills +9 (Jags 20-16)

 

Carolina Panthers (11-5) at New Orleans Saints (11-5), 4:40 p.m. (Sun.)

It's matchup number three between the Saints and Panthers and you've heard the cliché that it's hard to beat a team three times. New Orleans beat the Panthers 34-13 way back in September and 31-21 at home just over a month ago. In each of these games, the run game took over and Cam Newton struggled to get much going. It's the formula that the Saints have thrived on with Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram carrying the load as well as an improving defense. Drew Brees has not had to do as much as he had in the past. The team didn't look that great down the stretch in losses at Atlanta and Tampa Bay. It's hard for me to trust this defense although the numbers say the group is pretty good. By all accounts, Carolina has the better D in this one and offensive weapons that are pretty talented themselves in Christian McCaffrey and Greg Olsen. Can Devin Funchess do something positive in this one though? Carolina has won 13 of its last 22 in New Orleans. The Panthers certainly CAN win this one, but I don't think they do. SELECTION: Over 47.5 (Saints 28-20)

 

— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.

Event Date: 
Thursday, January 4, 2018 - 21:37

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