It’s NFL Wildcard weekend which means we have to cherish the last few days of football betting before going into hibernation until March Madness. With a smaller slate of games I find it much harder to bet because there are fewer opportunities to find value.
With the road team favored in each of the four games there is a big opportunity to fall into a trap. Falling in love with short road favorites, it seems so easy.
On the flip side, as long as you are comfortable being uncomfortable there is certainly value in taking home dogs. I’m always working on finding value and being less of a square so getting points appeals to me.
To show how hard this weekends slate of games is to pick I’ll spell out the logic for each of the teams covering. You can then decide for yourself which NFL Wild Card betting scenario is more likely to happen.
Steelers -3 @ Bengals
Lets start with my hometown Steelers. Would you rather have Ben Roethlisberger, who has won two Super Bowls and been to a third, as your quarterback or a making his fifth career NFL start and first in the playoffs AJ McCarron? Throw in the fact that the Steelers are 14-3 versus the Bengals in Cincinnati their last 17 games, have the best wide receiver in football, and you can see why laying the three points seems so enticing.
As for Who Dey, sure it’s not easy to rely on an inexperienced quarterback to keep the game close but the Bengals already beat the Steelers once this year and the Steelers defense allowed the third most receiving yards per game in the NFL. In both games versus the Steelers this year AJ Green went bananas with over 100 yards receiving and a TD in each game.
I’m always a fan of live dogs (aka an underdog who can win the game outright) and the Bengals certainly fit that mold. Big Ben has thrown two interceptions in each of the last three games, the Steelers just crapped the bed in a huge spot versus the Ravens and looked less than impressive versus the Browns (even though they covered the game. Austin Davis was awful), and DeAngelo Williams is running on one wheel (and that’s assuming he plays at all). God forbid DeAngelo Williams doesn’t play and Fitzgerald Toussaint has to carry the rock. Who’s Fitz Toussant? Exactly.
The Bengals win or cover ugly due to the Steelers shooting themselves in the foot and their porous secondary letting them down.
Chiefs -3 @ Texans
The Chiefs have won 10 straight games and Brian Hoyer is the quarterback for the Texans. I can’t see the headline, “Hoyer throws for 300 yards and 4 TD’s in Texans tomahawk of the Chiefs.” Throw in the fact that running back Alfred Blue is averaging 3.8 yards per carry, good for 35th best in the NFL, and the Texans offense looks to be nothing more than DeAndre Hopkins. Stop him and the Texans have to rely on Nate Washington to do something. Good luck with that.
The Chiefs offense may be as exciting as missionary sex but hey, at least they are getting some. Both defenses are good and cancel each other out. Andy Reid doesn’t get the opportunity to lose the game due to poor clock management and Alex Smith guides the Chiefs to an unsexy and low scoring cover.
As for the Texans, they have the best offensive player in this game, DeAndre Hopkins, and their defense has been one of the best the second half the season. Plus, you get to root for JJ Watt, which allows you to increase your Broness a ton, and any big plays he makes counts double since you bet on them.
Additionally, no one is saying, “I’m scared of Alex Smith and his 218 yards passing per game (which was 29th in the NFL, behind Brian Hoyer) and whoever that Chardandrick West guy is.”
You also can’t discount the fact that betting on Andy Reid as a road favorite has disaster written all over it. It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when Andy Reid will do something mind blowingly inexplicable, ripping out the hearts of gamblers who bet on them.
Take the points at home and watch as the Chiefs self destruct themselves.
Packers -1 @ Redskins
Relax with all the Packers anxiety. Aaron Rodgers is the reigning NFL MVP, he’s won a Super Bowl, and he’s taking on a Redskins team lead by Kirk Cousins who is making his first career playoff start. The Redskins defense is also garbage whereas the Packers defense is good.
Why also fall into the trap of taking the recently hot quarterback who won the worst division in football when you can take a Packers team that beat the Seahawks this year plus has better weapons. If the Packers win this game and you are on the wrong side you’ll say to yourself, “How could I be so stupid to take Kirk Cousins over Aaron Rodgers?!” Experience plus better quarterback typically equals success.
On the flip side, the Packers went from having the highest scoring offense in the NFL last year to middle of the pack this year. They also fell to 23rd in total yards. This is not the same explosive offensive we’ve come to know and love with Jordy Nelson streaking down the field.
I also don’t know why magically the Packers issues would some how get fixed on the road in the playoffs. It feels like people wants to back the Packers because of Aaron Rodgers and what we think their potential could be, but don’t want to account for the fact that Eddie Lacy now runs like Kendrick Perkins, their receivers aren’t getting open, and there have been major issues for the last two months.
Amazingly Kirk Cousins lead the NFL in completion percentage this year and over the last 10 games has a 23 TD to 3 INT ratio. The Redskins have won 4 in a row and 5 of 6 and seem to play well with the “nobody believes in us narrative.” You also get the added benefit of being able to tell your children, “I bet on the Redskins and Kirk Cousins when they beat Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers in the playoffs.” You can’t put a price on being able to tell a legendary gambling story.
Seahawks -4.5 @ Vikings
It’s going to be below freezing in Minnesota so you can expect the Vikings to give a heavy dose of Adrian Peterson. The problem is everyone and their brother knows this. The Seahawks allowed the 3rd fewest rush yards per game so it’s likely to be tough sledding.
This year Teddy Bridgewater averaged fewer yards passing per game than Matt Hasselbeck. He makes Alex Smith’s arm look like Jeff George’s cannon. If the Vikings get down by more than 7 points they are screwed. How are you going to feel needing to rely on Teddy Bridgewater to lead an offensive comeback?
Throw in the fact that the Seahawks have been to the Super Bowl each of the last two seasons, so their experience certainly trumps what little the Vikings have, and with Marshawn Lynch coming back to this now potent offense this seems like a straight ATM deposit.
The Vikings quietly went an NFL best 13-3 against the spread this year. It’s easy to make the case for why you should bet the Seahawks, but not as much with the Vikings (from a public standpoint). In instances like that a red flag goes off in my head. There’s no such thing as free money in sports betting.
I love how everyone is so quick to say the Seahawks are one of the hottest teams in the NFL, but casually leave out that they just lost at home to the Case Keenum lead Rams. So I’m getting the most points on the board (4.5) at home with the team that has the best running back in the playoffs, a good defense, and had the best against the spread record this year in a nobody believes in us scenario? I can get behind that.
Each of these narratives are easy to talk out, which makes betting these games all that much harder. That, of course, is what makes sports betting so fun. Expect the unexpected (which sounds like a plug for an upcoming season of Big Brother.)
This is a principle bet against Andy Reid in the playoffs. Plus I like the way the Texans D has been playing. I also don’t buy into the Chiefs despite their win streak and there is lopsided action on the Chiefs, which makes me fade the public.
I’d rather go down with Aaron Rodgers under center then have to rely on Kirk Cousins, Alfred Morris, and the lesser of the two defenses.
I never bet on the Steelers (conflict of interest, I’m already too vested) so I won’t have any action on this game. I am cautiously optimistic they’ll win due to my faith in Antonio Brown and number 7.
I’ll likely rent a movie (aka put a small amount down, just to be entertained, like watching a movie) on the Seahawks/Vikings game which will probably happen closer to game time. I’m leaning towards the dog.
If you’ve got some NFL Wild Card betting action going this weekend hit me up on Twitter @BaconSports and let me know what you’ve got (even if you are on the other side).