Wild Card Round Picks & Predictions: The Bets Our Experts Locked in Early, Including Vikings-Saints
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images. Pictured: Defensive back Anthony Harris (41) of the Minnesota Vikings.
- Betting early in the week is often the best way to beat closing lines, and get the most value out of your picks.
- Our experts reveal the early NFL bets they made for Wild Card Round of the NFL Playoffs.
NFL spreads usually open up on Sunday evenings for the following week — and after they do, they’re almost immediately on the move. The early bets serve as a signal to bookmakers for what the “true” odds should be, and sportsbooks aren’t shy about adjusting on the fly if the market is telling them they missed the mark.
Betting earlier in the week is a key way you can beat the closing line, which should be your goal as a bettor.
Our NFL experts picked three games early in an attempt to beat the market:
- Sean Zerillo analyzes Bills at Texans (Odds: Texans -2.5)
- Matthew Freedman hits on Titans at Patriots (Odds: Titans -4.5)
- John Ewing and Sean Koerner discuss Vikings at Saints (Odds: Saints -8)
- Travis Reed tackles Seahawks at Eagles (Odds: Seahawks -2)
Odds as of Monday evening and via PointsBet, where Action Network users can access an exclusive promotion to get a 200% deposit match (deposit $50, bet with $150). No strings attached. No rollover required.
Sean Zerillo: Bills-Texans Over 42.5
The total for this game opened at 41.5, and has climbed by a full point despite 63% of tickets backing the under — with 78% of the cash behind the over.
Perhaps the public has taken notice of Buffalo’s excellent defense and the following trend — in games started by Josh Allen the under is 19-8 (70.4%), and that mark improves to 11-2 (84.6%) on the road.
However, there’s another trend (which also fits the Saints-Vikings game) that bettors should be very aware of heading into this weekend:
At 29-13 (69%) indoor playoff games have been a boon for over bettors dating back to the 2003-04 season – including an 11-6 (64.7%) record in the Wild Card Round.
Note that this system is just 3-3 in Super Bowls, making these Dome Overs 26-10 (72.2%) in all other playoff rounds.
Both teams in this matchup like to run the ball — Buffalo ranks sixth in total rushing attempts, while Houston ranked 12th — and they ranked seventh and 10th respectively in run to pass ratio this year.
But it’s not as though these offenses play slowly — Houston ranks 15th in time between plays and 17th in plays per game, while Buffalo ranks 12th and 16th respectively.
I’m OK betting the over here up to 42.5, just below the key numbers of 43 and 44, and if the total continues to rise I may look to buy back on the under and try to play a middle before kickoff.
Zerillo is 277-205-10 (57.5%) overall betting on the NFL. You can follow him in our free app.
Freedman: Titans-Patriots Over 42.5
Since Ryan Tannehill became the starting quarterback for the Titans in Week 7, they have put up points with ease:
- Tannehill’s starts (10 games): 30.4 points scored | 23.9 points allowed
- Other starts (six games): 16.3 points scored | 15.3 points allowed
They’ve also allowed significantly more points.
It is possible opposing offenses have played more aggressively with Tannehill at quarterback since they know they need to score more points to keep up with the Titans.
On top of that, the Titans have a funnel defense that ranks No. 6 against the run but No. 20 against the pass in DVOA (per Football Outsiders).
Teams are incentivized to pass against the Titans, and given the superiority of the passing game, that could result in more points. And perimeter cornerbacks Malcolm Butler (wrist, IR) and Adoree’ Jackson (foot) are both injured. Jackson hasn’t played since Week 13. Butler suffered a season-ending injury in Week 9, and since then the Titans defense has ranked No. 30 in pass success rate allowed (per Sharp Football Stats).
In Tanny’s 10 starts, the over is 9-1 (77.5% ROI). I’d bet the over up to 45.
Freedman is 551-427-22 (56.3%) overall betting on the NFL. You can follow him in our free app.
John Ewing: Vikings +8
The Saints are a good team and playing in the SuperDome, but this number is just too high.
Historically, favorites have been overvalued in the playoffs. Since 2003, the chalk is 76-95-4 (44.4%) against the spread in the postseason, according to Bet Labs. Oddsmakers know casual bettors like to wager on favorites and will inflate the line making it easier for underdogs to cover.
It’s not just history that points to value on the Vikings. Sean Koerner’s power ratings make the Saints 5.5-point favorites and The Action Network simulations have New Orleans winning by 3.6 points on average.
History, power ratings and our model think this line is too high. I’d bet Kirk Cousins & Co. down to +7.
John Ewing is 335-311-18 (51.9%) overall betting on the NFL. You can follow him in our free app.
Sean Koerner: Vikings +8
I projected this line as Saints -5.5 (as Ewing noted above), but I was not surprised to see them favored by over a touchdown when the market opened. The Saints are clearly the better team and at home, but I feel the public is over inflating the advantage due to recency bias here.
In Week 15, Drew Brees broke two NFL records in a 34-7 victory over the Colts. The Saints then followed that up with two impressive road wins, including a 42-10 victory over the Panthers who gave up weeks ago when they fired head coach Ron Rivera.
However, the Saints have been far from perfect in the second half of the season. They were stunned by the Falcons at home in a 26-9 loss and barely beat the Panthers 34-31 at home two weeks later.
As for the Vikings, they bombed on Monday Night Football in a 23-10 loss and were able to rest their starters in a meaningless Week 17 loss to the Bears.
That extra week of rest should get them closer to full strength as they should be able to get Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison back for the postseason. Adam Thielen has been dealing with a nagging hamstring issue all year, so he may be closer to 100% this week due to the added rest.
The Vikings also have a +3.0 edge in expected Pythag win differential over the Saints — the Saints have been a bit lucky with a 6-1 record in one-score games.
We have to remember that the spread itself is not a prediction by the sportsbooks, rather a number that they let the market ultimately set as their main goal is to divide the action evenly. If they were to float a -5.5 line here, they would get hammered by Saints tickets.
I’m proposing that the undercurrent of sharp action will be betting this number toward -5.5, so I wanted to lock in the Vikings when they were getting more than a key number of +7.5 as it’s more likely to move to +7 by kickoff than it is to +10.
Sean Koerner is 179-133-3 (57.4%) overall betting on the NFL. You can follow him in our free app.
Travis Reed: Eagles Moneyline +110
The Action Network simulations once again are not fans of the Seahawks. Their point differential this season was +7, which indicates a team that is likely to go 8-8 instead of 11-5. But Seattle did very well in one-score games this season, a stat that has proven to be mostly random and unsustainable over time.
The Eagles have a ton of injuries, but have been able to come through with their depth and appear to have found an explosive new toy for their offense in Boston Scott. Zach Ertz’ availability will be a key thing to watch in terms of line moves.
The simulations see these two teams as close to equal on a neutral field, and I think Philadelphia has a good coaching advantage with Doug Pederson having a grasp of game theory. I like the Eagles as home dogs and would take the moneyline at +100 or better.
Also with the line currently at 1.5, I think the Eagles are a good play on a 6-point teaser to get them past the key number of +7 as a home dog.