Rejoice! The NFL playoffs are finally upon us! Here are the bets you should make during the Wild Card round.
Most of us are still recovering from the shock of realizing that 17 weeks have passed and the NFL regular season is over. For many people that means crying because their crappy team didn’t make the playoffs (I’m a Vikings fan, I know what that feels like), and for others it means gearing up to watch their boys make a run for the Super Bowl.
Regardless of which side of the fence you’re on, the playoffs are the best time to bet on the biggest NFL matchups. You’ve spent every Sunday of the past four months glued to your TV and mobile betting
app, and it’s time to put all of the knowledge you gained to good use. Here are some tips for betting on this upcoming weekend’s Wildcard Round.
#1: Bet on the Lions to beat the spread: Detroit at Dallas
The Detroit Lions are the darlings of the NFL, having finished with an 11-5 record and qualified for only their second playoff berth during the past 20 years. They simply have the bad luck of having to travel to Dallas to face the Cowboys, who boast a 12-4 record and look close to unbeatable.
This game will be a shootout. The Cowboys feature the NFC’s most balance offense, and the Lions are nothing to scoff at either, featuring the league’s best receiver in Calvin Johnson. The Lions have an ace in hole, however: The NFL’s number one ranked rushing defense.
The Cowboys entire game plan depends on strong running by DeMarco Murray, who led the league in rushing yards in 2014. If the Lions can neutralize him—something they’ve been doing all season long—they’ll have a good chance of winning.
Top online sportsbooks are favoring the Cowboys with a -7 spread, a number that the Lions most certainly can beat.
#2: The Panthers will hold the line: Arizona at Carolina
By all accounts, the Carolina Panthers shouldn’t be in the playoffs at all. They have a losing record and a cumulative point differential of -35. At one point in the season their record was a dismal 3-8-1. On the other hand, the Cardinals spent most of the season atop the cutthroat NFC West. A slam-bang win for the Cards, right? Wrong.
The Panthers are playing at home and are the NFL’s hottest team, having won four straight. Quarterback Cam Newton is fully healthy and looking like the superstar that he is, having run for at least 50 yards and a touchdown in each of the past three games. Rookie wideout Kelvin Benjamin caught 9 touchdown passes and is a front-runner for Offensive Rookie of the Year.
The Cardinals haven’t fallen apart since quarterback Carson Palmer went out with a torn ACL in Week 10, but they aren’t the same team either. Bet365, a leading online sportsbook in the UK, is favoring the Panthers by -4.5. It would be a big surprise if they didn’t match that number.
#3: The Ravens will soar this week: Baltimore at Pittsburg
Football fans will get a treat this week in a reprising of the AFC North’s most bitter rivalry. The Baltimore Ravens and back in the playoffs after a one year hiatus and will walk into Heinz Field to face the Steelers, owner of the NFL’s third-ranked offense.
• Cowboys -7, Lions +7
• Panthers -4.5, Cardinals +4.5
• Steelers -3, Ravens +3
• Colts -3, Bengals +3
Bookmakers are favoring the Steelers by -3, and there isn’t much reason to argue with them. They’ve won four straight games, Ben Roethlisberger has turned in the best season of his career and Antonio Brown led the NFL in receiving yards with 1,698.
Dig a little deeper, however, and you’ll see why the Ravens have a good chance of stealing this game, or at least beating the spread. They feature the NFL’s best pass rush, have a better cumulative point differential: +107 to +68, and Steelers’ running back Le’Veon Bell may not play due to a leg injury suffered in last week’s game against the Bengals.
#4: Luck will prevail: Cincinnati at Indianapolis
The Bengals bring a bruising rushing attack to Indy, home of Andrew Luck’s world-beating right arm. Bet365 is favoring the Colts by -3, and that line looks to be a bit on the low side. Here’s why:
The Bengals are on the road, and while they feature two top-flight backs in Giovanni Bernard and Jeremy Hill, quarterback Andy Dalton has never won a playoff game and their 20th ranked pass defense can be picked apart by accurate quarterbacks.
That’s where Luck comes in. He claimed the title of “best quarterback on Earth” in throwing 40 touchdown passes as well as leading the NFL in passing yards. The Colts defense finished 12th against the pass and 18th against the run. Whatever Cincy throws at them, it will be pale in comparison to what Andrew Luck throws at the Bengals defense. The Colts will win, and handily.