NFL Wild-Card Playoffs Picks: Our Experts’ Favorite Bets in Chargers-Ravens, Eagles-Bears
USA Today Sports. Pictured: Khalil Mack
- The Action Network experts break down their favorite Wild Card weekend bets, including Seahawks-Cowboys and Chargers-Ravens.
- We've also got against-the-spread and over/under picks, and even a tease and a player prop for Colts-Texans and Eagles-Bears.
What a betting weekend we have in store. Two straight days of NFL playoff games on Wild Card Weekend followed by the college football national championship. It doesn’t get much better than that.
To help you narrow down your final weekend wagers, our staff has angles on each of the four Wild Card games this weekend — including opposing opinions on a few sides, which I personally love to read to get both perspectives.
And for even more analysis on the weekend card, check out our in-depth betting guides.
Let’s get into our 15 favorite Wild Card weekend bets, which can hopefully help you find a winner or two you otherwise wouldn’t have spotted. Our NFL staff picks went 142-125-14 (53.2%) during the regular season.
>> All odds pulled from Cris on Jan. 3, so slight line variations are possible. Download The Action Network app to get real-time NFL odds and track your bets.
Chargers at Ravens (-3 | O/U: 41.5)
Sunday, 1:05 p.m. ET on CBS
Stuckey: Ravens -3, Under 41.5
The Ravens’ pass rush should have no issues once again dominating a Chargers offensive line that features some of the worst pass blockers in the league.
It also helps to have a suffocating secondary that can play press coverage on the outside, which makes that pressure even more effective — especially when Rivers snaps the ball as the game clock is running out on almost every play (LA is the slowest team in the league, which will help the under).
Rivers and the Chargers second overall pass offense DVOA should struggle once again against Baltimore’s third overall pass defense DVOA.
This is also a Ravens team that allowed only 3.7 yards per rush, thanks in large part to its play up the middle at linebacker (Mosley top 15 in run defense) and safety (Weddle top 10 among safeties) in addition to two extremely solid run stoppers on the interior in Brent Urban and Brandon Williams (both top 20 run defense among interior defenders, per PFF).
The Chargers ran the ball 16 times for 51 yards in the first matchup. I do expect them to run the ball a lot more to neutralize the pass rush (which will help the under even more) — but I don’t expect them to have a ton of success.
Gordon and Ekeler can also be dangerous out of the backfield in the passing game. And I expect the Chargers to use their backs more in the passing game than they did in the first meeting to try and neutralize the pass rush and provide check downs for when Rivers is under attack.
However, the Ravens pass defense ranks No. 1 in the NFL against opposing running backs, per Football Outsiders.
The one area Baltimore has struggled to defend at times is opposing tight ends (22nd per Football Outsiders). Over their past 14 games, the Ravens defense has allowed only 16 passing touchdowns (and nine interceptions).
Of those 16, six came against opposing tight ends (Ben Watson, Greg Olsen, Matt Lengel, Jared Cook, Austin Hooper, Travis Kelce). But the Chargers haven’t utilized their tight ends a ton this year — and I don’t expect many snaps or an explosion in production from Henry in his first game back from injury.
I do think the Chargers offensive line will benefit more from seeing the Ravens a few weeks ago. The Ravens did everything right, but it’s the Chargers that get to adjust to a unique rushing offense and a complex defensive scheme with unique blitzes. But it’s still just a bad matchup.
While the Chargers won’t be phased by playing in a hostile environment, I think the Ravens can feed off of one of the best home-field advantages in the NFL and carry a lead into the half — and then hold on with their defense. And don’t forget about the enormous Baltimore special teams advantage.
I’m rolling with the Ravens and the under (split between full game and half). If I had to pick one, I’d roll with the under. This is Army (Ravens) vs. a Snail (Chargers).