NFL Playoff Odds & Picks: The 3 Wild Card Spreads We’ve Already Bet
Don Juan Moore/Getty Images. Pictured: Baker Mayfield
NFL betting markets move quickly — especially in the postseason.
To help you get ahead of that early-week movement, our staff has outlined the spreads they’ve already bet for the Wild Card Round. Let’s dive right in.
NFL Playoff Odds & Picks
No. 5 Ravens at No. 4 Titans
Raheem Palmer: I don’t put much stock into revenge situations because there’s no reason to assume that one team wants to win more than the other simply because they lost. However, the Ravens’ last two losses to the Titans were indicative of the strength of both these teams.
In Week 11, the Ravens held a 21-10 lead in the third quarter before a Lamar Jackson turnover completely swung the game. And in their 28-12 loss to the Titans in the 2019 playoffs, the Ravens dominated in just about every statical category — except for the scoreboard. They had 530 yards of offense in that postseason meeting and out-gained the Titans in yards, yards per play, first downs and time of possession.
The Ravens ultimately lost as a result of three turnovers and four failed fourth-down conversions. Although turnovers decide the majority of NFL games, they’re a product of variance and aren’t predictive, so it’s certainly not something we can bank on when handicapping a game.
There’s a lot to like about this rematch if you’re the Ravens, though.
Baltimore has made a living beating up on bad defenses, averaging 37 points per game with 34, 47, 40, 27 and 38 against the Cowboys, Browns, Jaguars, Giants and Bengals — teams that rank 21st, 24th, 31st, 23rd and 27th in Football Outsiders’ defensive DVOA. Well, the Titans rank 29th in that metric, including 30th against the pass and 15th against the run. They also rank 27th in defensive success rate (Sharp Football Stats), allowing 48.5% of opponents plays to grade out as successful. And finally, they’re allowing the third-worst red-zone percentage, with opponents converting a whopping 69.2% of trips inside of the 20-yard line.
Playoff games are won with defense, and this is simply not a unit we can trust to stop any offense — they have a league-low 19 sacks, and four of them came against the Texans on Sunday. The Titans are also dead last in pressure rate (16.7%) and 17th in ESPN’s Pass Rush Win Rate.
Overall, if the the Ravens can avoid turning the ball over, we could see the Titans get boat raced.
The Ravens actually laid six points in their Week 11 home matchup against the Titans, and with there being a lack of home-field advantage this season, a -3.5 spread is short. My projections make this Ravens -5.8, so I’ll lay the points and look for Jackson to get the first playoff win of his career.
No. 7 Bears at No. 2 Saints
Brandon Anderson: New Orleans has been No. 1 in overall DVOA for much of the second half of the season, even with most of the team’s key offensive playmakers missing.
Chicago, meanwhile, has one of the lowest variance of any teams. We know what the Bears are — they keep it close and low scoring. When the script is in their favor, they can handle it. But Saints will pressure Mitch Trubisky all game, and the script could get away quickly like it has against top opponents this season. Plus, Michael Thomas could return, and so could Alvin Kamara.
The Bears’ best hope is multiple turnovers or defensive scores, and the Saints rarely turn it over. I just don’t see it for the Bears.
No. 6 Browns at No. 3 Steelers
Chris Raybon: My initial projections have the Steelers favored by six, so I already bet a half-unit on them.
The Browns don’t match up well with the Steelers — they’re No. 1 in pressure rate while Baker Mayfield one of NFL’s worst quarterbacks under pressure.
The Steelers already beat the Browns in a 38-7 blowout in Pittsburgh back in Week 6. And while the Steelers aren’t as healthy as they were then while the Browns should be healthier, Pittsburgh also nearly pulled out a Week 17 upset of Cleveland … without Ben Roethlisberger and other key starters.
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Matthew Freedman: Betting against the Browns has been a profitable endeavor this season: They’re only 6-10 against the spread (ATS).
In fact, in the aftermath of his magical (read: outlier) rookie season, he’s been an exploitable mark — opponents are 20-11-1 ATS for a 24.4% Return on Investment (ROI) against Mayfield since 2019.
As for the Steelers, they’re 10-6 ATS (20.9% ROI) and specifically 2-0 ATS vs. the Browns this season.