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NFL Playoff Odds, Picks, Predictions: An Expert’s Guide To Betting Steelers-Chiefs, More On Wild Card Sunday

NFL Playoff Odds, Picks, Predictions: An Expert’s Guide To Betting Steelers-Chiefs, More On Wild Card Sunday article feature image

Getty Images. Pictured: Travis Kelce

NFL Odds, Picks, Predictions

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8:15 p.m. ET

Note that all defensive pressure stats are courtesy of Pro Football Reference, all DVOA starts are via Football Outsiders, and all other stats are courtesy of PFF unless otherwise noted.

Steelers vs. Chiefs Odds

Spread Chiefs -12.5
Over/Under 46 (-110/-110)
Time 8:15 p.m. ET
Odds via DraftKings as of writing. Find real-time NFL odds here.

Steelers-Chiefs Predictions

These two teams played to a total of 46 in the first meeting, and I expect the second meeting to be even tighter, sort of like a divisional game — given the recent added familiarity.

The Steelers will be hard-pressed to move the ball through the air. The Chiefs’ 23rd-place ranking in defensive passing DVOA is deceiving, as they are 11th since Week 10. Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s defenses always seem to peak late in the season, and the addition of Melvin Ingram from these very Steelers bolstered the Kansas City pass rush.

But more importantly, Ben Roethlisberger may literally be incapable of moving the ball downfield through the air. Here’s a look at his average depth of target (aDOT), yards per attempt (YPA) and yards-per-completion (Yd/C) splits over the past four games compared to the first 13:

  • Weeks 1-14: 7.3 aDOT, 6.3 YPA, 10.3 Yd/C
  • Weeks 15-18: 6.0 aDOT, 4.5 YPA, 7.2 Yd/C

Even if the Steelers are in comeback mode, they may take forever to get the ball down the field.

Another reason to like the under is both teams are top-seven in pressure rate, and Pittsburgh can holds its own against Mahomes, as it ranks eighth in pass-defense DVOA.

Including the postseason, Steelers road unders have covered at a 57% clip with Mike Tomlin as head coach, according to our Action Labs data:

And since 2003, wild-card unders in games played outdoors have gone 39-18 (68%).

Pick: Under 46.5 (to 44.5)

Click the arrow to read Raybon’s DFS analysis

DFS Plays

Clyde Edwards-Helaire (ankle) has been ruled out, leaving Darrel Williams to carry the load in a beautiful matchup. Not only are the Steelers 27th in DVOA against the run and last in the league in rushing yards per game allows (146.1), but they are also 12.5-point underdogs, which should provide the Chiefs with ample opportunity to pound the rock in the second half.

Williams is a top cash game value for the full slate and the DK Showdown Captain spot.

Backup Derrick Gore is an intriguing leverage play minimum price. He is projected for 1% rostership. Jerick McKinnon will see a few passing-down snaps and is an option in one-game slates.

Travis Kelce makes for a better stacking partner with Patrick Mahomes than Tyreek Hill this week. Despite a nagging heel injury, we’re still expecting Hill to be one of the most highly rostered WRs on the slate. Kelce’s rostership is expected to be held in check due to the plethora of options available at TE. The Steelers are ranked fifth in DVOA versus WR1s, but 10th vs. TEs.

The Steelers tend to play more zone coverage, and Byron Pringle leads all Chiefs WRs not named Hill in yards per route run versus zone coverage (1.76). Pringle has consistently been in the 70-88% routes run range in five of six games since the bye. However, he’s also projected to be on roughly 15% of rosters, so it makes sense to fade him for Mecole Hardman (5%) and Demarcus Robinson (1%).

David Eulitt/Getty Images. Pictured: Chiefs WR Byron Pringle

Josh Gordon will be the WR5 and is only an option in the one-game slate, along with backup TEs Noah Gray and Blake Bell as well as FB Michael Burton.

The Steelers’ game plan will revolve around Najee Harris, who has to be locked into cash games at RB. Harris piled up 110 yards on 24 touches when these teams met in Week 16. The Chiefs run defense improved from 27th in DVOA in Weeks 1-9 to 11th from Week 10-on, but Harris is the odd-on favorite to lead the slate in touches and is always a good bet for an endless amount of dump offs in Pittsburgh’s futile garbage-time efforts.

Benny Snell Jr. would take over if Harris got hurt or needs a breather and is an option on Showdown slates.

JuJu Smith-Schuster practiced this week and is expected to make his return from an ankle injury that was initially thought to have ended his season. Even in his first game back, he is viable as a cash game punt play due to his bare-minimum salary.

With Smith-Schuster back, it makes sense to fade Diontae Johnson, who is expected to be one of the most highly rostered WRs on the slate. Chase Claypool is a better option, as he is cheaper and expected to appear on fewer rosters. The Chiefs also rank worse in DVOA against WR2s (21st) than WR1s (17th).

Kansas City also ranks slightly below average in DVOA against TEs, which sets up well for Pat Freiermuth, who is expected to be the sixth-most highly rostered TE on the slate and well off the radar of most entrants.

Ray-Ray McCloud, James Washington and Zach Gentry are one-game dart throw options only.

Ben Roethlisberger seemingly can’t throw the ball downfield anymore, but he still makes sense to roster in DK Showdown cash games (for exposure to every potential TD) and all GPPs, as he projects to be the least popular QB, by far.

The Chiefs DST is the top play on the slate at the position, as the Steelers are implied by the Vegas odds to score fewer than 17 points. Given that the Chiefs have been sloppy with the football at times and have the seventh-highest rate of turnovers per drive (13.7%), I also like the Steelers DST as a contrarian play; you’re just hoping for a lucky TD and some sacks/takeaways, as the Chiefs will undoubtedly score points.

  • Cash Plays: RB Najee Harris, RB Darrel Williams, WR Juju Smith-Schuster, DST Kansas City Chiefs
  • GPP Plays: QB Patrick Mahomes, QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Derrick Gore, WR Chase Claypool, WR Demarcus Robinson, WR Mecole Hardman, TE Travis Kelce, TE Pat Freiermuth, DST Pittsburgh Steelers
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Editor’s note: We’ve moved the Eagles-Bucs preview lower in this story to prioritize games that haven’t kicked off yet.

49ers vs. Cowboys Odds

Spread Cowboys -3
Over/Under 50.5 (-110/-110)
Time 4:30 p.m. ET
Odds via DraftKings as of writing. Find real-time NFL odds here.

49ers-Cowboys Predictions

Whether the 49ers win will depend on how well they can stick with the run, pass under pressure, and limit turnovers (color me skeptical). Regardless of whether that happens, this game is likely to trend toward the under.

If San Francisco is able to control the game, it will come via the incessant run game, which will bleed clock and keep the ball away from this Dallas offense. That will almost certainly be Kyle Shanahan’s game plan against a Cowboys team that led the league in points per game on offense (31.2) and hung a 50 burger on the scoreboard in two of its past three games.

But if the 49ers are struggling, it will be because their passing offense has been nowhere near as deadly against man coverage, which the Cowboys play at one of the highest rates in the league. The 49ers are averaging 7.9 yards per targeted pass against man coverage (which is below the league average of 8.0) compared to 10.1 vs. zone.

Deebo Samuel goes from a position-leading 3.70 yards per route versus zone to 1.84 against man, a drop-off of 50%. George Kittle goes from a position-leading 2.69 yards per route run against zone to 1.84 against man, a drop-off of nearly a full yard. Brandon Aiyuk also drops from 1.94 yards per route against zone to 1.47 against man.

You get the picture.

The you have the pressure element: The Cowboys are fourth in pressure rate (27.8%) and don’t have to bring extra rushers to generate that pressure, as their 27.1% blitz rate is the lowest blitz rate for any team with top-six pressure rate. Jimmy Garoppolo’s yards per attempt drops from 9.0 when kept clean to 7.4 under pressure this season, and his 29.2 PFF passing grade under pressure ranks dead last of 40 qualified quarterbacks.

San Francisco should be able to hold its own on defense, as well, as it ranks fifth in DVOA.

A big key is its run defense, which rates second. Stopping the run will inevitably lead to some third-and-longs for the Cowboys, who rank 31st in success rate on third and fourth downs with seven or more yards to go, converting just 16-of-92 (17.4%) such opportunities.

DVOA tells the same story, as the Cowboys rank 27th on third- or fourth-and-long.

On top of that, both teams play at a slow pace: In terms of situation-neutral pace, the Cowboys are 26th and the 49ers are 28th, according to Football Outsiders.

Indoor overs in the postseason had a good run, but that’s no longer the case, as postseason outdoor unders have gone 8-1 over the past three seasons, per our Action Labs data:

Pick: Under 51 (to 49.5)

Click the arrow to read Raybon’s DFS analysis

DFS Plays

Take a wild guess as to what Shanahan’s game plan will be against a Dallas defense that ranks second in DVOA against the pass but 16th against the run.

Elijah Mitchell carried at least 21 times in each of the past five games. He is a must-play in cash games and should be locked into the Showdown Captain spot as well, as he is cheaper than Deebo Samuel.

Due to the fact the Cowboys play man coverage at a top-eight rate, this doesn’t necessarily profile as a smash spot for the 49ers passing game, which averages more than two yards less per attempt versus man. I’m treating Samuel, George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk as high-floor cash game plays but looking for more contrarian options in GPPs.

Deebo Samuel obviously has the highest floor of those three, as he’s seeing 5-8 rushing attempts in addition to his normal WR1 duties. George Kittle will likely see a lot of safety Jayron Kearse in man coverage. Kearse has been above-average in coverage — his 65.3 PFF grade rates 43rd of 97 qualified safeties — but he is no one to fear. In fact, Dallas’ 17th-place ranking in DVOA against TEs is their only ranking outside of the top five against any skill position. And Brandon Aiyuk posted 55 yards and/or a touchdown in seven of the final eight games of the regular season. Nothing about the matchup stands out — Aiyuk drops from 1.92 yards per route against zone to 1.47 vs. man — but he is simply too cheap and nets out as one of the top plays in terms of Projected Plus/Minus at WR in our FantasyLabs NFL Player Models.

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Ironically, one of the best ways to create a differentiated lineup with the top 49ers pass catchers is to stack them with Jimmy Garoppolo, who projects to be in fewer rosters than Samuel, Kittle and Aiyuk.

My favorite GPP play for San Francisco, though, is Jauan Jennings, who leads the team with 2.02 yards per route versus man coverage. Despite his two-touchdown game last week, Jennings is expected to draw sub-5% rostership. If there were ever a time to chase last week’s production, this is it.

Shanahan has been tight with allocating snaps to non-starters at the skill positions, so the only one-game dart throw options are JaMycal Hasty and Kyle Juszczyk, who split passing-down snaps. Trent Sherfield and/or Travis Benjamin might get a route or two if the 49ers have to go four-wide, and Ross Dwelley and/or Charlie Woerner might get one if the 49ers run play-action around the goal line.

Dak Prescott is the ideal cash-game QB against a 49ers defense that sets up as a pass funnel, ranking second in DVOA on the ground but 16th through the air. After the way Prescott’s season ended last year and the way he closed out this regular season with 12 TDs and zero interceptions in his last three games, you can just feel him showing up in a big way in his first playoff game since 2018.

Prescott’s biggest enemy will be the 49ers offense bleeding the clock, which is why he makes for a better play in cash games than GPPs. He is expected to rival Patrick Mahomes for the status of most highly rostered QB on the slate.

Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images. Pictured: Dak Prescott

The 49ers run a zone-heavy scheme and struggle against WR1s, ranking 31st in DVOA, so this sets up well for CeeDee Lamb. Unfortunately, much of the upside of rostering Lamb is removed due to his ownership projection — we expect him to be the slate’s most highly rostered wide receiver.

Cedrick Wilson is expected to be in fewer lineups than both Lamb and Amari Cooper, and he averages significantly more yards per route run vs. zone (2.15) than Cooper (1.73). Noah Brown and Malik Turner are the one-game dart throw options who will see the field when Dallas goes four- or five-wide.

Dalton Schultz has a tough matchup, as the 49ers are ranked second in DVOA versus TEs. His matchup would have been upgraded if safety Jaquiski Tartt would have been ruled out after getting banged up last week, but Tartt was not even listed on the final injury report.

Blake Jarwin should also see 20-30% of the snaps as the TE2, and could be a slate-breaker if he scores a TE given his salary compared to the players who will garner most of the ownership at the position. I like Jarwin as a cash-game punt play on DK Showdown slates and a high-leverage pivot off of Schultz in GPPs.

Ezekiel Elliott faces a tough matchup here, but he has value in GPPs because he is expected to be only the fifth-most highly rostered RB on the slate. Tony Pollard is an even better option, as he is expected to be one-fourth as many lineups as Elliott.

In DK Showdown cash games, fading Elliott for Pollard allows you to also roster Samuel, who is crucial to the 49ers since he is being used so much in the running game.

The Cowboys DST is my favorite for GPPs. Dallas ranks fourth in pressure rate, and Garoppolo is PFF’s lowest graded QB under pressure this season. His interception rate has tripped when under duress, which is a great sign for a Cowboys defense that led the NFL in takeaways. The Cowboys would likely need to be in a positive game script to force the 49ers to pass, so stacking Elliott (or Pollard) with the DST makes a lot of sense.

  • Cash Plays: QB Dak Prescott, RB Elijah Mitchell, WR Deebo Samuel, WR Brandon Aiyuk, TE George Kittle
  • GPP Plays: QB Jimmy Garoppolo, RB Ezekiel Elliott, RB Tony Pollard, WR Cedrick Wilson, WR Jauan Jennings, TE Blake Jarwin, DST Dallas Cowboys

Eagles vs. Bucs Odds

Spread Bucs -8.5
Over/Under 46 (-110/-110)
Time 1 p.m. ET
Odds via DraftKings as of writing. Find real-time NFL odds here.

Eagles-Bucs Predictions

Teams that lost the regular-season matchup tend to cover at a high rate in the postseason rematch, but I’m waiting until the final weather forecast closer to kickoff to make any calls in this game, as it could change how both teams approach the game and also affect the total.

Be sure to follow me in the Action app to see if I end up betting any side, the total or props for this game.

Pick: Pass for now

Click the arrow to read Raybon’s DFS analysis

DFS Plays

Rain and winds in the 15-18 mph range are expected in Tampa, so the Bucs would have liked to lean on Leonard Fournette (IR-hamstring), but he was not activated from IR. Fournette posted a 23/81/2 line when these teams met in Week 6.

This leaves Ke’Shawn Vaughn as the lead back with Giovani Bernard (hip), who was activated from IR on Saturday, as the passing-down back. Vaughn is a solid GPP option, but I don’t trust him in cash games. Bernard would carry scant ownership, making him a valuable dart throw on this type of slate.

It’s possible Le’Veon Bell also sees a few snaps, but I would only use him as a Hail Mary on one-game slates.

Tom Brady is expected to be the fourth- or fifth-most rostered QB on the slate, which is too low despite the wet and windy conditions. Brady is also the obvious choice for the Captain spot on Showdown slates.

Mike Evans has a tough matchup against Darius Slay, but is projected to garner the lowest roster percentage of all the high-end WRs on the Sunday slate and is a smash tourney play. Evans has four multi-TD games this season and is always a good bet for one even if the efficiency isn’t there. Tyler Johnson ran a route on 87% of the dropbacks last week while Breshad Perriman ran a route on 70%. Both are expected to appear in fewer than 10% of lineups and make sense in Brady stacks.

Digging deeper, Scotty Miller and Jaelon Darden should split WR4/5 duties and are your one-game Showdown min-priced dart throws.

The Eagles’ biggest weakness on defense has been covering tight ends: They rank 27th in DVOA versus TEs and have allowed the most touchdowns in the league to the position (14). Even on a slate with Travis Kelce and George Kittle, Rob Gronkowski is my projected TE1. He is cash-viable on DraftKings at $6,200.

Like Gronkowski, Cameron Brate could take advantage of the Eagles deficiencies versus TEs. He is expected to be in one-tenth as many lineups as Gronk and makes for an excellent tourney play.

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Like Brady, Jalen Hurts is expected to be the fourth- or fifth-most rostered QB on the slate. Hurts threw for only 115 yards in the first meeting between these teams but rushed for two scores. The Bucs have had issues with allowing explosive runs, making Hurts a tantalizing GPP bet.

The same is true for Mile Sanders at RB.

Sanders was not even listed on the injury report this week and is expected to lead the backfield. I normally don’t recommend playing him in GPPs because he doesn’t score TDs — shouts to my Sanders under 7.5 TDs preseason future! — but he has a good chance of clearing the 100-yards bonus on DraftKings by popping a big run or two.

Jordan Howard has been the RB2/goal-line back when Sanders is healthy and thus has to be considered for GPPs. Boston Scott and Kenneth Gainwell will likely take a backseat here — they’re worth dart throws only in the one-game slate.

The Bucs are in the top-quarter of the league in zone-coverage rate, which makes this a plus matchup for Dallas Goedert, who leads the Eagles with 2.58 yards per route run (YPRR) against zone coverage. However, Goedert is expected to be the most-rostered TE in GPPs, so I think you have to take your chances on other options with so many other TEs on the slate who are capable of producing a ceiling game.

Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Eagles RB Miles Sanders, TE Dallas Goedert

This is a good spot for Devonta Smith, who is second on the team in YPRR against zone (2.01). The rookie first-round pick is projected to appear in only half as many lineups as Goedert.

Both Quez Watkins and Jalen Reagor project for sub-5% rostership, but Watkins is averaging 1.28 YPRR versus zone coverage while Reagor is averaging just 0.81 YPRR. Watkins is the better dart throw.

Greg Ward should pick up an extra snap or two with J.J. Arcega-Whiteside on IR, but Ward still should be confined to one-game slate dart throw status only. He has scored a TD in three games this season but doesn’t have a game with more than two grabs. Backup TE Jack Stoll has only five targets on the year, but two of them came in the red zone. He is a Hail Mary option on the one-game slate.

The Bucs are the second-largest favorite on the day besides the Chiefs, so it makes sense to roster the Bucs DST on FanDuel at $4,200 — $600 cheaper than the Chiefs. I would leave the Eagles DST for one-game slates only.

  • Cash Plays: TE Rob Gronkowski, DST Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • GPP Plays: QB Tom Brady, QB Jalen Hurts, RB Miles Sanders, RB Jordan Howard, RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn, RB Giovani Bernard, WR Mike Evans, WR DeVonta Smith, WR Breshad Perriman, WR Tyler Johnson, WR Quez Watkins, TE Cameron Brate

DraftKings Lineups

Full Slate

  • QB Dak Prescott $6,700 vs. SF
  • RB Najee Harris $6,600 at KC
  • RB Elijah Mitchell $5,700 at DAL
  • WR Deebo Samuel $7,900 at DAL
  • WR Brandon Aiyuk $5,200 at DAL
  • WR Juju Smith-Schuster $3,000 at KC
  • TE Rob Gronkowski $6,400 vs. PHI
  • FLEX Darrel Williams $5,200 vs. PIT
  • DST Kansas City Chiefs $3,300 vs. PIT

Buccaneers-Eagles Showdown

  • CPT QB Tom Brady $17,100
  • QB Jalen Hurts $10,600
  • TE Rob Gronkowski $9,200
  • RB Miles Sanders $8,000
  • RB Jordan Howard $2,800
  • RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn $2,000

Cowboys-49ers Showdown

  • CPT RB Elijah Mitchell $12,000
  • WR Deebo Samuel $11,200
  • QB Dak Prescott $10,600
  • QB Jimmy Garoppolo $9,200
  • RB Tony Pollard $5,200
  • TE Blake Jarwin $1,600

Chiefs-Steelers Showdown

  • CPT RB Darrel Williams $9,600
  • QB Patrick Mahomes $11,800
  • RB Najee Harris $9,800
  • TE Travis Kelce $9,400
  • QB Ben Roethlisberger $8,800
  • WR Juju Smith-Schuster $200

FanDuel Lineup

  • QB Dak Prescott $8,000 vs. SF
  • RB Najee Harris $8,000 at KC
  • RB Elijah Mitchell $7,400 at DAL
  • WR Deebo Samuel $8,700 at DAL
  • WR Brandon Aiyuk $6,100 at DAL
  • WR Juju Smith-Schuster $4,500 at KC
  • TE George Kittle $6,500 at DAL
  • FLEX Darrel Williams $6,600 vs. PIT
  • DST Tampa Bay Buccaneers $4,200 vs. PHI

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