Colts vs. Bills Odds & Picks For Wild Card Weekend: How To Bet Saturday’s Spread, Total & More
Getty Images. Pictured: Josh Allen, Philip Rivers
- The NFL playoffs are finally here! The Bills and Colts kick off Wild Card Weekend with an early Saturday afternoon showdown.
- Buffalo is a 6.5-point favorite against Indianapolis, but is there any value on the spread? What about the total?
- Our staff breaks down how they're betting this matchup in our comprehensive guide below, featuring odds and picks.
Colts vs. Bills Odds
The 2-seeded Buffalo Bills host the 7-seeded Indianapolis Colts to kick off Wild Card Weekend.
Find our comprehensive betting preview below, featuring the following (click a bullet point to skip ahead):
Colts vs. Bills Picks
Our staff details how they’re betting Saturday’s game. Click on a pick type above to skip ahead to that analysis.
Koerner: The Bills opened as 6.5-point favorites, and despite seeing steady action all week — drawing 60% of bets and 59% of the money as of Friday (check real-time public betting data) — the line hasn’t budged.
I think the sharp action has been coming in on the Colts based on how they matchup against the Bills.
Josh Allen has destroyed man coverage this season — out of 42 qualified quarterbacks, he’s first in expected points added (EPA) per attempt against it according to Sports Info Solutions. But he ranks 15th against zone, and the Colts ran out of zone defense at the fifth-highest rate in the league.
I don’t think the Colts can really shut down Allen, but their heavy zone approach and playmakers DeForest Buckner, Darius Leonard and Xavier Rhodes should be able to slow Allen down enough to keep the game close.
When the Colts have the ball, Jonathan Taylor will be the focal point — only Titans running back Derrick Henry has out-rushed Taylor since Week 11. And the Bills’ run defense is their only real weakness, ranking 17th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA and 22nd in EPA per attempt, and I expect the Colts to exploit it.
Philip Rivers likely isn’t capable of beating the Bills on his own, but he does rank eighth (out of 34) quarterbacks in EPA/play. The Bills try to generate pressure via the blitz, as evidenced by their 35.5% rate (ninth-highest), but it’s a strategy that likely won’t throw Rivers off his game as he gets rid of the ball at the sixth-fastest rate (2.52 seconds per NextGenStats).
He’s also been clicking with T.Y. Hilton of late. Hilton ranks sixth in EPA among wide receivers since Week 12. The Colts may move Hilton around the formation to avoid Bills shutdown corner Tre’Davious White at times.
I’m projecting the Bills at -4.5 here. They’re the better team and should hang on to win by a field goal, but +6.5 is a bit inflated — especially considering that six has become a more valuable number since the NFL moved extra points back in 2015.
I would bet this down to +6.
Raybon: Beyond the fact that the Colts are running into a buzzsaw Bills team that is 9-1 over the last 10 games and is now ranked No. 1 in overall DVOA, this is a concerning matchup for the Colts on a number of fronts.
For starters, we can no longer say their calling card is their defense. Thanks to the return of linebacker Matt Milano and some schematic shifts from the ever-sharp Sean McDermott, Buffalo has jumped ahead of Indianapolis to eighth in weighted DVOA (which weights recent games more heavily) while Indy ranks 10th.
But over the second half of the season in particular, the contrast is even sharper: In Weeks 10-17, the Bills rank sixth in pass defense DVOA and 11th in run defense DVOA while the Colts rank 16th against the pass and 18th against the run.
The Colts are 11-5, but just 3-5 when an opponent scores 24 points or more points, with four of their five losses coming by seven or more. The Bills, meanwhile, have been held to fewer than 24 points only three times all season, with none of those instances coming after Week 7.
Philip Rivers has struggled mightily in the second half this season:
- First half: 211-of-293 (72.0%); 2,605 yards (8.9 YPA); 19 TD; 3 INT; 116.3 rating
- Second half: 158-of-250 (63.2%); 1,564 yards (6.3 YPA); 5 TD; 8 INT; 74.1 rating
He’s spent most of his career playing in the warm weather of Southern California and then the dome in Indy, so these struggles could be exacerbated in the cold weather of Buffalo.
The Bills are top-five in second-half scoring (14.8), including first over the last three weeks (23.0) and are playing top-10 run defense, so the Colts aren’t in a good spot to rely on the familiar formula of leaning on Jonathan Taylor.
Rivers is not only outdoors, but is also still dealing with a painful toe injury and will be missing stud left tackle Anthony Castonzo (IR, ankle), as well as backup La’Raven Clark (IR, Achilles).
Against a Bills defense that quietly ranks No. 2 in ESPN’s Pass Rush Win Rate, the Colts are now forced to kick the tires on 33-year-old Jared Veldheer, who has played three games over the past two seasons. The Bills don’t give up many explosive plays as is — they ran seventh in explosive pass rate on the year and fourth over the last 10 weeks, according to Sharp Football Stats — but Castonzo’s injury makes it all the harder.
This puts the Colts’ paths to winning and/or covering in the unenviable spot of slowing down Josh Allen and the Bills offense, where the Colts also do not match up well. Per Sheil Kapadia of The Athletic, Allen posted a league-best 68.1% Success Rate against Cover 2, the Colts’ preferred defense this season.
Stuckey: I believe the Colts’ offense is a bit overrated after facing the easiest schedule of opposing defenses.
From the perspective of DVOA, the Colts faced only three above-average defenses this season and went 1-2 in those games — against the Ravens, Steelers and Bears — and averaged only 5.0 yards per play. For reference, only the Jets averaged fewer than 5.0 yards on the season.
And this Bills defense has made tremendous strides down the stretch. They will face a Colts offensive line that will be missing starting tackle Anthony Castonzo. Indy will likely turn to 33-year-old Jared Veldheer, who was coaching high school football this fall. I assume he will get a lot of help, which will restrict some of what the Colts can do offensively.
Buffalo can also put Tre’Davious White on T.Y. Hilton, who has really come on down the stretch. That could take away Rivers’ most dangerous weapon. Plus, at 39 years old, Rivers clearly doesn’t have the arm strength he once possessed. That could be an issue in the cold weather, which has historically given him problems, albeit in a small sample size. The ex-Charger is 1-5 (0-3 in the playoffs) when the temperature is under 40 degrees.
I assume the Colts will go with a very slow, run-heavy game script in order to attack Buffalo’s primary defensive weakness while also keeping the ball out of Josh Allen’s hands.
Speaking of which, Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus could have some success containing this Bills offense. Buffalo shouldn’t get much on the ground against a very stout Indianapolis run defense, led by first-team All-Pro selections DeForest Buckner and Darius Leonard.
However, Buffalo doesn’t really rely on its rushing attack, so it will come down to the pass defense.
Playing man coverage against Allen has been a death wish this year. Not only has he torched secondaries with deep balls against single coverage, he can also use his legs to torment opposing defenses.
This season, Allen has 25 touchdowns to two interceptions against man coverage compared to 12 touchdowns to eight interceptions against zone.
Despite his monumental progress, Allen can still be forced into mistakes against disciplined zone defenses. Fortunately for the Colts, they play the second-most zone defense in the league. They’ve actually struggled a bit in Cover 2 and Cover 6 while excelling in Cover 3, which I think we see plenty of on Saturday.
Indianapolis should get Khari Willis back at safety, which will help. They may be without Rock Ya Sin, but I actually prefer his backup T.J. Carrie. Regardless, there’s not a material difference to me. I am interested to see how they utilize cornerback Xavier Rhodes and whether they decide to have him shadow his ex-teammate Diggs.
Ultimately, this Bills defense matches up quite well with an overrated Indy offense without a starting tackle and likely relying on its run game to chew up the clock. Meanwhile, the Colts defense at least runs a high frequency of the ideal scheme you want against this potent Buffalo aerial attack.
Notable Colts-Bills Injuries
Tommy Stokke: The Bills await news on their top two receivers as both Stefon Diggs (oblique) and Cole Beasley (knee) are listed as questionable.
Buffalo needs Diggs, who has become Josh Allen’s favorite target in his first season with the Bills. The All-Pro receiver led the NFL with 127 catches and 1,535 yards. He’s caught at least seven passes in each of the last eight weeks.
Beasley, meanwhile, missed Week 17 then sat out practice both Tuesday and Wednesday and was a limited participate on Thursday. The second-team All-Pro is “confident” he’ll play, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network.
The final decision will come after Beasley warms up on Saturday.
Most Valuable Colts-Bills Players
Our Director of Predictive Analytics, Sean Koerner, highlights the five most valuable players for both teams based on how many points they’re worth to the spread.
- The addition of Stefon Diggs (+1.03) has played a considerable role in Josh Allen’s (+4.64) breakout season. Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll’s innovative play-calling has also contributed to Allen’s success.
- Micah Hyde (+0.35) and Jordan Poyer (+0.29) remain among the best safety duos in the league.
- Ed Oliver (-0.06) and Tremaine Edmunds (-0.20) haven’t lived up to their first-round billing yet.
- The Bills are a team that’s greater than the sum of its parts. Head coach Sean McDermott consistently puts his players in a position to succeed.
- The loss of Anthony Castonzo (+0.18) was a big blow to the O-line. It’s a net 0.38 drop-off with the Colts having to turn to backup Chaz Green (-0.18).
- Jacoby Brissett (+0.0) is the definition of a replacement-level quarterback. The addition of Philip Rivers (+3.1) played a key role in taking the Colts from a 7-9 team to an 11-5 one. If Andrew Luck (+5.0) were still playing, this roster would have been a Super Bowl contender.
- DeForest Buckner (+0.56) and Xavier Rhodes (+0.34) were key offseason additions who helped the defense go from 19th in DVOA in 2019 to eighth this season.
Colts-Bills WR/CB Matchups
Wide receiver vs. cornerback matchups might be the most important individual matchups in football. Read senior NFL analyst Matthew Freedman’s breakdown of the expected matchups this Saturday.