NFL Odds: Our Best Bet for Ravens vs Bengals
Dustin Bradford/Getty Images. Pictured: John Harbaugh.
- Our staff of betting analysts has you covered for NFL Wild Card Sunday.
- We have five bets across the tripleheader this week, starting with Dolphins vs. Bills.
- Get our staff's favorite NFL predictions for the NFL playoffs below.
NFL Odds & Picks: Wild Card Sunday
Brandon Anderson: All-powerful playoff-mode Josh Allen versus seventh-round rookie Skylar Thompson is about as big a playoff mismatch as you get. Thompson makes his debut on the road in front of a wild Buffalo crowd with a bad offensive line that may be missing both tackles, and it could get ugly.
Miami’s offense at its best relies on blazing speed and perfect timing to break defenses apart in Mike McDaniel’s system. Buffalo’s defense has been more good than great down the stretch and has leaked some explosive plays, including against these Phins, but that all relies on a competent quarterback who can get his speedy playmakers the ball. There’s little evidence that Thompson can do that.
If this game is anything like the past two meetings, Thompson may not be on the field much. Miami’s pass defense ranks 26th on the season and has not been able to get off the field against Josh Allen, who has played two of his best games of the season against them.
Early in the year, Allen threw 63 times for 400 yards on this team with the Bills holding a wild 90-to-39 edge in plays and 285 more yards, but somehow losing anyway. Then in the Buffalo snow globe, Allen had 381 yards of offense and threw for four TDs.
The scorelines in both games were close but betrayed the tale of the tape — Miami’s defense never had a chance. That defense is also far worse on the road than at home (28th vs. 5th by DVOA) and worse in the first half (25th vs. 11th), so this could get away from the Dolphins quickly.
The Bills have five wins this season that cover this number. They have a huge advantage on offense, defense, special teams, experience and at coach. And then there’s that whole Skylar and Josh thing.
This is just a lean because it’s such a high line and we still don’t totally know how this Bills team will respond emotionally after everything, but I expect them to win with ease.
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John LanFranca: We are getting points against the worst defense in the playoffs, couldn’t the handicap just stop there? The Giants are 6-1 against the spread on the road this season, and will have the coaching edge in this game as well.
Since Week 11(excluding Week 18), the Giants rank as the sixth-best offense according to total offensive DVOA. The Vikings were 25th in the same category over that span.
The Giants also turned the football over at the lowest rate in the league this season, which will pay huge dividends in the playoffs. The Vikings won the turnover battle 2-0 in their Week 16 matchup, which is the reason they were able to overcome getting outgained by nearly 100 total yards to get the victory in the final seconds.
Daniel Jones faced little resistance in the first meeting, averaging over eight yards per attempt. Saquon Barkley is well-rested and now completely healthy. Brian Daboll has been preparing for this game for two weeks and I expect the Giants to win this game outright.
I will gladly grab the three points in a game that is one of the more likely of the weekend to come down to the wire.
Play Giants +3, or the moneyline down to +125 if the line moves to 2.5.
I’d say that Minnesota couldn’t possibly get so lucky again, but that would be doing them a disservice. The Vikings ended the regular season as the second-luckiest team in the NFL according to our Luck-Driven Power Rankings (20.7%). At the same time, that game-winning kick was a rare example of when luck wasn’t on New York’s side as it ranks fifth in those same rankings (17.6%).
I initially considered this game a stay away considering the luck factor of each team. However, the more I look at the numbers, the more I can’t help but come down on the side of New York winning straight up.
Why? Well, first and foremost, Football Outsiders ranks the Vikings as the sixth-worst team in total DVOA (-13.%).
Yes, you read that right. The sixth worse! Perhaps that’s why I’m not alone as big money is coming down on Big Blue to beat Minnesota.
Another reason I like the Giants is the standout play of … Daniel Jones?!
Even I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence, but he’s been the better than Kirk Cousins.
Jones is having success despite throwing to the likes of Isaiah Hodgins, Richie James and Darius Slayton, and finished the year with the sixth-best QBR (60.7).
Protecting the rock is always of the utmost importance but takes on additional significance in the postseason. After being a human-turnover machine the first three years of his career, Jones turned the ball over only eight times this season. Meanwhile, Kirk Cousins’ 17 turnovers were fourth among all quarterbacks while his QBR of 49.8 ranked 23rd.
I also expect Jones to carve the Vikings up with his legs. He’s earned the moniker “Vanilla Vick” for a reason — his 708 rushing yards ranked fourth among all quarterbacks. That’s bad news for a Vikings defense that gave up the sixth-most quarterback rushing yards among playoffs team despite playing predominately pocket passers all year long. In fact, the 3.65 QB rushing attempts against them per game were ninth fewest in the league.
I’m far from alone on this pick as the big money is backing Big Blue. A whopping 94% of the money is on the Giants to win straight up. That’s third-most among all teams, and significantly more than any other underdog this weekend. The next closest is Tampa Bay with 79% of the money.
Nobody expects Jones to do what his predecessor did when Eli Manning guided the Giants on a pair of magical Super Bowl runs. However, this lines up nicely for him to take care of business in the Wild Card Round before likely getting pummeled next weekend.
Brandon Anderson: Minnesota‘s biggest advantage comes in its star playmakers.
The Giants defense is worst in the league on first down, allows a heap of explosive pass plays, and ranks last and second to last against WR1s and TEs. Justin Jefferson had 12 catches for 133 yards in the first matchup, and Hockenson had 13 catches for 109 yards and two scores.
Hockenson has at least five catches in seven of his nine full Minnesota games, and he’s had 9+ targets in six of them. Hockenson over 4.5 receptions is my favorite prop on the board this weekend. He’s become a real security blanket for Cousins.
Brandon Anderson: Cincinnati is versatile and battle-tested but has picked up key injuries down the stretch. The loss of Chidobe Awuzie has left this secondary vulnerable, and the right side of the rebuilt offensive line will be missing both starters and leave a huge hole protecting Joe Burrow.
John Harbaugh has a knack for keeping these games ugly and close. He’s 54-35-3 ATS (61%) as an underdog, including 8-4 in the playoffs and 8-1 as an underdog of eight or more. He’s also 6-1 ATS (86%) in the Wild Card Round. The Ravens are healthy outside of QB after resting key starters, and they’ve been far better on the road both offensively and defensively.
Historically, playoff division rematches tend to be close and unpredictable. Road division teams in the first two rounds are 13-4-1 ATS (77%) and a shocking 11-6 straight up (65%) with a spread of nine or below. My gut says Harbaugh and his outstanding special teams unit and defense keep this close while the Ravens run the ball, kill the clock and wait for a big play.
If you like the Ravens, you have to like the under 40.5 too. This team only hangs around if the defense keeps them in it. Baltimore went under 40.5 every game without Jackson before Week 18’s rest game.
Play Ravens +9 and Under 40.5 as a +264 correlated SGP to make the juice worth the squeeze, or play the under with the moneyline instead at +778 if you’re really feeling spicy.