NFL Playoff Odds, Picks, Predictions: Bucs, 49ers, Chiefs Are Among the Wild-Card Spreads To Bet

NFL Playoff Odds, Picks, Predictions: Bucs, 49ers, Chiefs Are Among the Wild-Card Spreads To Bet article feature image
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Getty Images. Pictured: 49ers WR Deebo Samuel, Bucs QB Tom Brady, Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill

It’s playoff time, baby! It’s our first ever three-day Wild Card Weekend with six games on tap, including Monday Night Football. The field has felt wide open all season, and outside of the two 7-seed Pennsylvania teams, it really feels like the other teams could beat any opponent at any time.

I broke down each matchup in detail early this week, making picks on every spread. I haven’t switched sides on any game, but I’ve finalized my positions below with injury news and line movements factored in. I also added non-spread bets I’m on for each game.

Let’s enjoy some playoff football and start the postseason out well!

Note: Sections labeled “analysis” were written earlier in the week.


NFL Playoff Odds, Picks, Predictions

Click on a matchup to skip to that analysis
Matchup Final Pick
Raiders-Bengals Lean Raiders to +5
Patriots-Bills Lean Patriots to +3.5
Eagles-Bucs Bet Bucs to -9.5
49ers-Cowboys Bet 49ers to +3.5
Steelers-Chiefs Bet Chiefs to -13
Cardinals-Rams Lean Cardinals to +4


Raiders vs. Bengals Odds

Odds Bengals -5.5
Over/Under 48
Kickoff 4:30 p.m. ET on Saturday
Odds via DraftKings

Final Raiders-Bengals Pick

  • Final Pick: Lean Raiders +5.5 (to +5)
  • Previously: Lean Raiders to +6
  • Other Bets: Raiders ML +200

Just about anything could happen in this game. You could tell me either team wins by one score or that either wins by double digits, and any outcome would make sense. The Bengals are the better team with the higher ceiling, but neither team has been predictable enough to go too hard on this game.

Neither team is a serious threat to make a deep run, so this is more of a playoff amuse-bouche. Given how open this feels, it makes the sense to take the points and nibble at that moneyline with implied 33% odds on a Raiders win.

Analysis

Click to expand Brandon’s full analysis from earlier this week

When these teams met in November, the Bengals closed as 1.5-point favorites. They won 32-13, but I didn’t have any big takeaways. The problem is that these are both really average teams, either of whom could have easily missed the playoffs.

The Bengals had nine one-score games. They rank in the bottom-half of the league in Football Outsiders’ overall DVOA, including on both offense and defense. They benefited from a bad division and a Charmin-soft schedule, easiest in the league against opposing offenses.

The Raiders also played in nine one-score games, going 7-2 (including 4-0 in overtime), winning four straight such games to sneak into the playoffs. And like Cincinnati, they also rank in the bottom half of overall, offensive and defensive DVOA.

The Bengals have struggled to run efficiently all season. Joe Mixon piled up big yardage but had blah metrics and the Bengals stayed far too run-heavy  —  until Weeks 16 and 17, when they opened the offense up and Joe Burrow threw for almost 1000 yards.

The Raiders have a stout run defense, but are bad against the pass. If the Bengals play it safe and try to run a lot, it won’t go well. If Burrow is rested and healthy and they Bengals let him fire it all over the field, they should score.

The Bengals don’t have a good pass D either, so the Raiders should be able to pass on them too. Darren Waller was big in the first meeting, with seven catches for 116 yards, so his return is huge, as is the emergence of Zay Jones. The Bengals ranked in the bottom-quarter of the league in DVOA against tight ends and WR2s, so those two could have big games.

I can’t take much else away from that first matchup. That one was 13-6 heading into the fourth quarter, before a few untimely Raiders turnovers blew the game open for the Bengals. The Raiders couldn’t sustain any drives, going just 1-of-7 on third down, but they held Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins to only five catches for 47 yards combined. Neither offense hit 300 yards, but I expect better from both this week.

The Bengals are the better team, but not by a huge margin, and the Raiders have managed to stay in contention against all odds. Cincinnati hasn’t won a playoff game since Jan. 1991, and that was against the Houston Oilers, if that tells you anything.

These things never come easy for young teams. And this line is inflated because of the margin of that November Bengals win. But the Raiders rank top-five offensively in Expected Points Added (EPA) in the fourth quarter (per RBSDM), Derek Carr is always strong late, and this team believes after so many close wins. Even if the Bengals take a nice lead, I don’t trust their pass defense to slam the door shut, so the Raiders could backdoor cover late.

This is too many points for an untested playoff favorite when these teams are relatively even. Home favorites of seven or fewer points are just 14-28-1 (33%) against the spread (ATS) in the Wild Card Round since 2003, per our Action Labs data.

I’m not enthralled with either team — I’m most interested to see which future opponent is lucky enough to get to play one of these two for a spot in the AFC Championship Game — but I’ll take the points.


Patriots vs. Bills Odds

Odds Bills -4.5
Over/Under 44
Kickoff 8:15 p.m. ET on Saturday
Odds via DraftKings

Final Patriots-Bills Pick

  • Final Pick: Lean Patriots +4.5 (to +3.5)
  • Previously: Lean Patriots to +3.5
  • Other Bets: New England +1000 to win AFC; Patriots +430 to win by 1-6
  • Props: Josh Allen Over 39.5 Rush Yards; Damien Harris rushing yards overs

It looks like a cold, blustery day in Buffalo — and that sort of weather typically means closer, lower-scoring games with an emphasis on the run.

That leans in New England’s favor.

The Bills’ run defense is not great and the Patriots ran well on them during regular-season games. I’m looking to nibble on Damien Harris’ rushing-yard alternate overs at 80 (+240) or 100 (+520) — he had more than 100 in both previous meetings against the Bills. I’ll also play Josh Allen’s over 39.5 rush yards, too. His legs were key in the last matchup with the Patriots, and he’s been a deadly scrambler this season.

A low-scoring game makes me feel better about a Patriots win, too. The closer it gets, the more the pressure will be on the Bills.

New England is playing with house money. Bill Belichick will find all those little edges in a tight game. And if it’s close, I like New England — Belichick and the Pats just win those types of games, and I don’t see them blowing the Bills out on the road. That’s why my favorite play on this one is a New England win by 1-6 points at +430.

Analysis

Click to expand Brandon’s full analysis from earlier this week

New England came into Week 18 with a shot at the AFC’s 1-seed. Instead, the Patriots lost the first-round bye, lost the division, and lost to the Dolphins, falling all the way to the 6-seed — a costly loss, since it means a trip back to Buffalo against a rival that’s looked better in both heads-up games.

The first meeting between these teams was a windstorm. The Patriots won, but the Bills were the better team outside of one long Pats run. The Bills were one break away on maybe 10 plays —  a Dawson Knox drop, a misplaced Josh Allen throw, a missed kick  – from taking that one.

The Bills dominated the rematch, winning 33–21 and out-gaining the Pats 428 to 288 in yardage. The Bills were just 4-of-7 in the red zone while the Patriots were 5-of-6 on fourth down, or it might have been even worse.

Allen was the difference, and he’s why Buffalo is the better team. Mac Jones has faltered down the stretch, with five interceptions over his final four games and under 60% completions, while Allen played his best game of the season in that Buffalo win. He threw 47 times for 314 yards and three touchdowns, and his legs were the difference. Allen ran for 64 yards and constantly made plays as a runner, his running threat opening up passing lanes he took advantage of.

The Bills’ 11 wins were all by 12+ points  — that Patriots win was their closest victory  – but they went 0-5 in one-score games. We know those games tend to be luck of the draw. But how differently would we think of the Bills if they went 2-3 in those games and were sitting atop the NFL at 13-4?

Still, Buffalo is letting teams hang around. Even in Week 18, the Jets literally had 53 yards on 46 plays, yet were down only 13-10 in the fourth quarter. The Bills tend to pull away late, but it’s dangerous letting a Bill Belichick team hang around. Belichick is 30-15-2 ATS as a regular-season underdog, covering 67% of the time by almost six points per game. Few are better as a dog, pinpointing an opponent’s strength and forcing them to win another way.

Belichick knows Buffalo’s weak spot its its run defense — Damien Harris ran for 103 yards and three scores in defeat and had the winning run in the first meeting. Expect a heavy dose of Pats running to shorten the game and keep Allen on the sidelines. And when Allen is on the field, look for the Pats to spy him to limit his legs and try to force the Bills to run.

Any weather helps New England, too.

Kathryn Riley/Getty Images. Pictured: Bill Belichick

The Bills have struggled to win these close games all season, and Allen is 1-3 ATS in the postseason. The Patriots are a good and balanced team built to win a variety of ways — they’re the only NFL team that ranks top 10 in passing and rushing DVOA on both offense and defense.

Both these teams are terrific, and this matchup is the AFC kingmaker. Both have games suited well for the playoffs, and both match-up well with the Chiefs.

I see value on New England futures — a Pats win likely sends them to face an overrated 1-seed Titans ripe for the picking, then one more win from the Super Bowl. That ticket is +1000 to win the AFC. The winner of this game becomes my co-favorite in the AFC with the Chiefs, and I like how both match-up.

Belichick is 32-11 against the Bills, including 22-14-2 ATS (61%). Remember, road underdogs of seven or fewer points are 28-14-1 ATS (67%) in the Wild Card Round since 2003. I have to take Belichick as more than a field goal dog in a game that will likely lack possessions and stay close all the way.

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Eagles vs. Buccaneers Odds

Odds Bucs -8
Over/Under 46
Kickoff 1 p.m. ET on Sunday
Odds via DraftKings

Final Eagles-Bucs Pick

  • Final Pick: Bet Bucs -8 (to -9)
  • Previously: Bet Bucs to -9.5
  • Other Bets: Bucs +800 to win Super Bowl; Tease Bucs to -2.5

The Bucs’ injury news looks mostly good. Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul both look good to go. Leonard Fournette should be fine. Mike Evans, too. The corners are fine, not great, but their absences won’t be as big of a problem against the Eagles’ run-heavy offense.

The big question is still LB Lavonte David, since the Bucs run defense hasn’t been as good without him. He’s a game-time decision.

If David is out, I like the Bucs less — but only a little. I still think they should be double-digit favorites. They’re a way better team at home and they’re the experienced as champs built to beat up on fringe playoff teams while the Eagles aren’t built to play from behind.

Barring Tom Brady laying a complete egg, I just don’t see Philly winning this, so a Tampa teaser leg works.

The Bucs are my best bet to win the Super Bowl heading into the postseason too at +800 (bet $100 to win $800). I love how the bracket lines up for them. Here’s my case.

Analysis

Click to expand Brandon’s full analysis from earlier this week

It hasn’t been the smoothest ride, but the Bucs are back. 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, and I expect them to do the same here.

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 opponents’ throats.

A closer look helps us understand why, though: The competition was terrible.

There were wins over the Lions and 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 and failing to cover in five.

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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 thanks to a 45-yard 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 here, maybe in the -12 to -13 range.

The Bucs went 5-1 against playoff teams and enter the postseason having won seven of eight. Their run D 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.


49ers vs. Cowboys Odds

Odds Cowboys -3
Over/Under 51
Kickoff 4:30 p.m. ET on Sunday
Odds via DraftKings

Final 49ers-Cowboys Pick

  • Final Pick: Bet 49ers +3.5, but no further (shop for the best line here)
  • Previously: Bet 49ers to +3.5
  • Other Bets: 49ers ML +150; Under 51

I still like the 49ers a lot as postseason sleepers capable of a deep run, but now that everyone else has caught on, a lot of the value has disappeared. We got the Niners at +5000 to win the Super Bowl a week ago; they’re down to +2000 now.

It’s not that I think the 49ers are way better than the rest of the NFC, but rather that they’re as good as any other team. They can certainly win this game, but that doesn’t mean they definitely will.

That means I won’t go crazy on just this game — I’m only betting the 49ers if I get the hook on that +3.5 (compare real-time NFL odds here). Keep waiting for that public Cowboys money, and maybe we even get to +4 by kickoff.

I’m expecting a lower-scoring game, with Dallas’ offense struggling lately and San Francisco running a lot to shorten the game. And if it is lower scoring, every point will matter.

Keep an eye on Trent Williams, too, to make sure he goes. He’s their MVP.

I’m not adding San Francisco futures at this point. There’s still a little bit of value, but we already got the best of the number in Week 18. We can just play their underdog moneyline.

Analysis

Click to expand Brandon’s full analysis from earlier this week

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 D to be this good. It’s the clear strength of the team, particularly up front. Micah Parsons has been a revelation — he, Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence 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 D, 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.

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 D 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.

In addition, 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.


Steelers vs. Chiefs Odds

Odds Chiefs -12.5
Over/Under 46
Kickoff 8:15 p.m. ET on Sunday
Odds via DraftKings

Final Steelers-Chiefs Pick

  • Final Pick: Bet Chiefs -12.5 (to -13)
  • Previously: Bet Chiefs to -13
  • Other Bets: Tease Chiefs to -6.5

Last season, NFL playoffs expanded to seven teams in each conference. If it weren’t for that change, neither of these teams would be playing this weekend — the Steelers would be sitting at home while the Chiefs would be on a deserved first-round bye.

By about halftime, I expect order to be restored.

Even if the Steelers defense keeps things close for awhile, I’m not sure they will ever feel like a serious threat, and that one final Ben Roethlisberger pick-six will always be looming late. If you don’t trust the high line, you can tease the -12.5 down to -6.5, then you just need the Chiefs to win by a touchdown.

Analysis

Click to expand Brandon’s full analysis from earlier this week

What a ride for Big Ben.

After 18 seasons and 268 starts, 22 in the postseason, Roethlisberger gets one more shot in the playoffs. The Steelers needed to win both of their final regular-season games and get huge help from the Jaguars, but the skies opened up, Pittsburgh is dancing and Steelers fans are feeling great.

They might want to store up all these good feelings and keep them forever — because this one could be ugly.

Big Ben and Mike Tomlin have been underdog darlings their entire careers. Nobody loves a rah-rah underdog spot like Pittsburgh. We made a lot of money betting on those two as dogs this season, but remember, they’re not undefeated in that spot. The numbers say Pittsburgh is much better as a home underdog, and better as dogs of a touchdown or less. Neither applies here, and that means we shouldn’t just auto-bet the underdog Steelers.

We probably shouldn’t bet them at all.

The Steelers been a live dog against some opponents, but the Chiefs aren’t just any opponent. Their defense improved greatly as the year went on and their offense is humming again.

What exactly is Pittsburgh good at? The pass defense has been good when healthy, but the run D is bad and the offense is nonexistent. Najee Harris may be hurt now, too. Pittsburgh eked into the playoffs on check-down passes, coaching and lots of help.

These teams aren’t just in two different weight classes; they’re playing two different sports.

Remember, they just played in Arrowhead the last Sunday of December. Kansas City rolled, 36–10, and it wasn’t even that close. The Chiefs were up 30-0 halfway through the third quarter. At that point, they had out-gained the Steelers 380-to-123 yards. It could have been 50-0.

Remember the ignominious ending to Drew Brees’ career last year? How about the 62-7 drubbing Dan Marino took in his final NFL game? We might get that sort of game from Big Ben. The Chiefs defense is good now, and Big Ben can’t move or get it downfield. The Steelers are in the playoffs in spite of Ben, not because of him.

Home double-digit favorites are a perfect 5-0 ATS in the Wild Card Round since 2003, covering by 5.6 points per game. When bad teams sneak into the playoffs, it’s usually not pretty or close. Kansas City will do what Cleveland and Baltimore were too mediocre and banged-up to do. The Chiefs are about to put Ben Roethlisberger in mothballs for good.

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Cardinals vs. Rams Odds

Odds Rams -4
Over/Under 49.5
Kickoff 8:15 p.m. ET on Monday
Odds via DraftKings

Final Cardinals-Rams Pick

This remains the most baffling game of the weekend, and it feels like a weird one for Monday night.

We did get some injury news. Star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is definitely out, but J.J. Watt remains hopeful that he could play. Meanwhile, there are some worrying signs for the Rams. Matthew Stafford picked up a turf toe injury late in Week 18, and their secondary is so banged up that they signed Eric Weddle out of retirement days before a playoff game. Weddle is a stud, but the last time this dude played football, no one had even heard of COVID.

I still don’t have a great read on this game so I may end up passing, but I certainly won’t be playing the Rams. The injury news, their fading offense, the Kliff Kingsbury underdog numbers — it’s all a trail of breadcrumbs pointing toward the Cardinals.

Stafford is 14-35-2 (29%) against the spread (ATS) in November or later against teams .500 or better, including 6-7 straight up as a favorite, per our Action Labs data. I don’t trust either team, but I trust Kyler Murray more than Stafford.

My biggest hope for this game: That one team looks really good in victory so I can go all-in fading them in Dallas or Tampa next week.

Analysis

Click to expand Brandon’s full analysis from earlier this week

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 one backed into the playoffs. I’d love to fade 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, constantly throwing to the wrong color jerseys. 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 these days.

The Cardinals can’t run the ball either, and their run D 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. Kyler Murray was an MVP favorite early but faded late a second straight season, and DeAndre Hopkins is still missing. The 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.

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