NFL Playoff Odds, Picks, Predictions: Bet the Eagles-Bucs and 49ers-Cowboys Spreads Now, Wait On Cardinals-Rams
Getty Images. Pictured: 49ers WR Deebo Samuel, Cardinals QB Kyler Murray
- Betting analyst Brandon Anderson makes his instant reaction picks for the Wild Card Round of the 2022 NFL playoffs below.
- Find out why he's already targeting Eagles-Bucs and 49ers-Cowboys below, plus his lean on the other NFC spread.
NFL Playoffs Odds, Picks, Predictions
Eagles vs. Buccaneers Odds
|Kickoff||1 p.m. ET on Sunday|
|Odds via DraftKings|
It hasn’t been the smoothest ride, but the Bucs are here again. And for the second straight postseason, they’ll start their journey against an NFC East foe. Last season was Washington; this season it’s Philadelphia.
The Bucs took care of business against the Football Team last January, and I expect them to do the same against the Eagles.
The Eagles had a tale of two seasons, starting 3-6 but finishing 6-2 to clinch the NFC’s final seed. After a breakout game against the Lions midway through the schedule, the Eagles adopted a run-first mentality. They entered Week 18 ranked third in Football Outsiders’ rushing DVOA — they’re winning games in the trenches and racked up wins by running it down their opponents’ throats.
A closer look helps us understand why, though: The competition was terrible.
We mentioned the Lions. There was also a win over the Jets. There was a pair of games against the Giants — the worst team in the league down the stretch — and the Eagles lost one of them. Plus two wins over the Football Team, whose season tailspun with COVID late. Wins over the Broncos and Saints aren’t worth much, either.
The Eagles played only three teams better than .500 over the back half of the season and lost two of them. They did play six games against playoff teams, but weren’t competitive in any, losing all six.
Did the Eagles really turn the corner? Or did they just stop playing good teams?
One of those six losses came against the Bucs on a Thursday night in October. The final score was 28-22, but the Bucs dominated all the way. They led 28-7 with less than six minutes to play in the third quarter, with the Eagles scoring their only touchdown to that point thanks to a 45-yards penalty. They finally scored their second after a 50-yard penalty but had only 213 yards and 20 minutes of possession compared to 399 and 40 for the Bucs.
The line for that game was Bucs -7 on the road, which means they should be double-digit favorites in the -12 to -13 range.
The Bucs went 5-1 against playoff teams and enter the postseason having won seven of their last eight. Their run defense sputtered midseason, but still finished top 10 in Expected Points Added (EPA) and top-three over the final four games.
The Bucs are far better while the Eagles have no gear to play from behind once Brady and Co. inevitably take the lead.
THE PICK: Bet Bucs to -9.5
49ers vs. Cowboys Odds
|Kickoff||4:30 p.m. ET on Sunday|
|Odds via DraftKings|
This has the the feel of the marquee game of the Wild Card Round — the one that will have the biggest impact on the playoffs going forward. The Cowboys were my sleeper Super Bowl pick before the season at +3500 and I just bet the 49ers as my sleeper heading into the playoffs.
This is a big-time matchup between big-time teams each capable of making a deep postseason run.
No one expected the Cowboys defense to be this good. It’s the clear strength of the team, particularly up front. Micah Parsons has been a revelation — the rookie, DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory can take over a game. They’re the reason the Cowboys have the No. 1 pass defense in Football Outsiders’ DVOA.
That defensive line is good enough to make a Super Bowl run. Are the rest of the Cowboys, though?
Dallas ran up the score on Philadelphia and Washington in primetime late, but against mostly backups. The offense has otherwise sputtered over the second half of the season. Dak Prescott hasn’t totally looked himself after that calf injury, and the run game is now MIA. The run defense is also a real problem — they rank in the bottom-half of the NFL at both running and stopping the run.
That could be a serious problem against the 49ers.
The Niners offense is really good, and unlike the Cowboys, they’re peaking over the second half of the season. San Francisco entered Week 18 top-five in passing and rushing DVOA, then put up huge yards on a terrific Rams defense, even without stud LT Trent Williams. He, George Kittle and Kyle Juszczyk open huge lanes in this attack while Deebo Samuel is a yards-after-catch monster with the ball.
The 49ers’ dynamic rushing attack makes them a unique threat in the NFC. They’re also one of the league’s best run defenses. Their pass defense is beatable, but the Cowboys haven’t shown they can consistently pass the ball down the stretch — they can win this game in the air, but not if they can’t tackle or get off the field defensively.
We back Kyle Shanahan as an underdog. He’s 25-17 against the spread (ATS) in the regular season as a dog, covering 60% of the time, per our Action Labs data. I give the Niners a decisive coaching advantage with Mike McCarthy on the other sideline. And in a close game, that edge matters.
Also, Prescott is 1-2 straight up and 0-3 ATS in the postseason while Jimmy Garoppolo is surprisingly 2–1 ATS.
Garoppolo’s injury is a concern, but he looked pretty good leading the 49ers back against the Rams on Sunday with the season on the line. I’m actually more concerned about Williams — he and Kittle are the most important players on this team.
With a healthy Williams, I like the 49ers to cover and win as underdogs. With he and Garoppolo uncertain, though, I would only bet the Niners now if you can get them at +3.5 or better (check real-time NFL odds here). Otherwise this is only a “lean” until we receive news about their statuses.
THE PICK: Bet 49ers +3.5 or better
Cardinals vs. Rams Odds
|Kickoff||8:15 p.m. ET on Monday|
|Odds via DraftKings|
I don’t trust either of these teams as far as I can throw them.
I faded both into oblivion in Week 18 as each of them backed into the playoffs. And I’d love to fade them both in the opening round, but alas, one of them has to win.
Matthew Stafford is 0-3 in the postseason and has been a disaster down the stretch, continually throwing the ball to players in jerseys of the wrong color. Odell Beckham Jr. hasn’t clicked and the Rams can’t run the ball to save their lives, so the offense is mostly Cooper Kupp making magic.
By Football Outsiders’ weighted DVOA, the Rams offense is barely in the top-half of the league.
The Cardinals can’t run the ball, either, and their run defense has been shambolic since losing J.J. Watt. This team is built around passing and stopping the pass, though neither of those has gone that well lately, either. Kyler Murray was an MVP favorite early but faded late for the second season in a row, and DeAndre Hopkins is still missing. The potential return of Watt or Hopkins would be huge swing factors.
I also don’t trust either coach.
Sean McVay has made a Super Bowl appearance, but his offenses have consistently faded over the second half of seasons, plus the Rams finished 2-5 against playoff teams this year. And Kliff Kingsbury’s teams have collapsed late in every season since 2014, with this season’s version of the Cards starting 8-1 but finishing 3-5 after losing four of their final five:
Another Kliff Kingsbury regular season in the books!
Let’s update how he’s ended every season as head coach
'14: lost 4 of 5
'15: lost 4 of 6
'16: lost 6 of 8
'17: lost 6 of 8
'18: lost 5 of 5
'19: lost 7 of 9
'20: lost 6 of 9 (1 win by Hail Mary)
‘21: lost 4 of 5
— Matt Mitchell (@olboyunclemitch) January 10, 2022
The one unit I believe in is the Rams defense — Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey are two of the NFL’s finest, and the Rams entered Week 18 ranked top five in both pass and run defensive DVOA. I’m not sure I trust this gimmicky Cardinals offense to score on them, but as we’ve established, I don’t trust much of anything on either team.
If you’re looking to believe in the Cards, turn to Kingsbury’s history as an underdog. He’s 18-7-2 as a dog, covering 72% of the time by an average of 6.3 points per game, per our Action Labs data. That includes 6-0 this season with each of those covers on the road, winning all six outright.
If you want to believe in the Rams, they’ve won nine of the last 10 in this rivalry, with the Cards failing to even reach double digits in half of those games. McVay is 4-1-1 against the spread (ATS) head-to-head against Kingsbury.
I can’t make heads or tails of these teams, which usually means it’s a good idea to take the points with the underdog, especially when the line is past a key number like it is here. Supporting that is the trend of home favorites facing division opponents in the Wild Card Round going 3-9-1 ATS since 2003, losing five of the last six and failing to cover in all of them.
Still, Arizona +4 is only a lean for now.
THE PICK: Lean Cardinals +4