NFL Odds: Simon Hunter’s Favorite Spread Bets of Wild Card Weekend
Michael Owens/Getty Images. Pictured: Tyler Huntley.
(Editor’s note: This story is taken from Simon’s analysis on Thursday’s edition of “The Favorites” podcast, breaking down the NFL odds for Wild Card Weekend and his favorite against the spread bets across the wild card games.)
I am often asked whether my betting approach changes as the NFL season transitions from the regular season to the playoffs. The answer is yes. 75 to 80% of the time, I will bet on the side needed by the book.
However, in the Wild Card Round of the NFL playoffs, favorites backed by the public are historically successful against the spread.
Seahawks vs. 49ers Odds
Geno Smith defeated four quarterbacks in the final nine games of the season: Baker Mayfield, Mike White, John Wolford and Kyler Murray. In his last five games of the season, Smith averaged a QB rating of 84, nearly 30% worse than his rating of 117 in his other 12 contests.
I will fade the 49ers in the playoffs, possibly as soon as next week, but I like San Francisco to cover 10 points against Seattle.
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Chargers vs. Jaguars Odds
The second Saturday game features the Jaguars hosting the Chargers in the Jaguars’ first playoff game since losing to the New England Patriots in the 2018 AFC Championship. Any idea who the Patriots lost to in the Super Bowl that year?
Pederson defeated the Chicago Bears in the playoffs the following year in the infamous Double Doink game. The Bears’ outside linebackers in 2018 were coached by the current head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers, Brandon Staley.
The Jaguars initially opened as a 2.5 point dog, then went down to 1.5 before coming back to a 2.5 point dog. The most recent line movement can likely be attributed to Joey Bosa practicing. But the line may come down again thanks to the news that Mike Williams is out for the year.
Why is Mike Williams out? Because he hurt himself by playing in a meaningless game last week against Denver.
Some sharps are backing Justin Herbert to win another close game, but I like a Doug Pederson-led Jaguars team with the points in this matchup.
For whatever it is worth, Trevor Lawrence has not lost a football game on a Saturday dating back to high school.
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Dolphins vs. Bills Odds
The Bills host the Dolphins in the first playoff game on Sunday. With Skylar Thompson slated to start and two starters on the Dolphins offensive line not practicing on Friday, this line may close with the Bills favored by as many as 16 points.
Since 2016, favorites of 10+ points in the Wild Card round are 5-1 against the spread. Additionally, rookie quarterbacks are 14-35 against the spread since 2002 in their first playoff start against quarterbacks with one or more playoff start.
My favorite bet of the weekend is the Bills.
Giants vs. Vikings Odds
The Vikings host the Giants in the second game of Sunday’s slate. A handful of sharps are backing the best team in the regular season against the spread, the Giants. None of these sharps are more notable than Action Network’s own, Chris Raybon.
The issue, however, is that Raybon is a Giants fan. I, on the other hand, do not believe in Daniel Jones nor Raybon’s Giants. I am on the Vikings -3.
Ravens vs. Bengals Odds
The pros are steaming the Bengals. I like Cincinnati to cover a teaser below the three-point threshold, but this line is fishy. The Ravens’ defensive prowess should be enough to cover 8.5 points with Tyler Huntley starting.
Cowboys vs. Buccaneers Odds
In Week 17, Tom Brady clinched the NFC South by doing something he has done routinely in his 23-year career: consistently preying on his opponents’ vulnerabilities. Brady completed three touchdown passes of 30 yards or longer to Mike Evans. I expect Brady to continue throwing the ball vertically on Monday night with Evans, Chris Godwin and Julio Jones all suiting up against a depleted Cowboys secondary.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Buccaneers anticipate having both Vita Vea and Akiem Hicks active. This is good news for Bucs’ backers; the Buccaneers are 6-1 with Hicks and Vea in the lineup this season. Opposing teams average under four yards per rush and under 16 points per game in these contests. Without both in the lineup, opposing teams average nearly five yards per rush and almost 25 points per game.
Lastly, the only team in the playoffs with more than a 16-point differential in luck ranking parameters — which covered at a 62% rate during the season — is the Dallas Cowboys.
I pounced on the Buccaneers +3 earlier in the week, I took them again at +2.5 and I may nibble on the moneyline come Monday.
*All stats and information come from Action Network’s Director of Research, Evan Abrams.