NFL Wild Card Round Picks: Moneyline Bet for Jaguars vs Chargers
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images. Pictured: Brandon Staley.
The NFL playoffs are back with six Wild Card games across three days to get things started.
It's a weekend full of familiar matchups with this being the first Wild Card weekend with all regular season rematches for the first time since 2009. It's also a weekend full of inexperienced quarterbacks making their first career playoff start, which hasn't ended well historically — but more on that later.
Here are my thoughts on Saturday's slate, including what I bet and some fun guesses on the final scores for each. Enjoy the games and good luck on whatever you decide to bet.
-105o / -115u
-105o / -115u
This divisional matchup will feature two quarterbacks making their first postseason start, despite a wild discrepancy in overall NFL experience. That could lead to some sloppy or nervous play early on at the quarterback position in addition to conservative play-calling from two coaches who are known to be a bit too orthodox at times.
However, the current awful weather forecast might provide Seattle with a better chance of slowing down Christian McCaffrey and company by loading the box without worrying as much about downfield passing in windy and wet conditions.
Meanwhile, it's hard to envision Geno Smith having much success against this elite San Francisco defense after what we saw in both regular-season meetings, which saw him constantly under pressure. The 49ers defense has one area of vulnerability with the deep ball, but the weather also neutralizes that, in addition to what I expect to be conservative play-calling.
I'm rolling with the under here in a game I believe will start slow (don't hate first-half under, as well) and eventually end up in a semi-comfortable 49ers cushion, which allows Shanahan to rely on his defense and clock-bleeding ground game to salt it away.
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If I had to take a side here, I'd look for Seattle at +10 or better. The weather could be a neutralizing factor and Shanahan has not historically excelled as a large home favorite due to his conservative nature (which also helps the under).
Notable Nuggets: First-time starting quarterbacks as home favorites are just 8-14 straight-up (SU) and 6-16 against the spread (ATS) since 2002. Also, over the past 20 years, 15 teams have played a playoff game on a winning streak of 10 or more games. Those teams have gone 2-13 ATS.
Final Score Prediction: 49ers 23, Seahawks 14
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
Obviously, lines are very sharp for the most part by this point in the season in a very efficient market. Therefore, what I try to identify when betting the NFL playoffs is whether there's a matchup advantage I don't think the market is properly accounting for, or a specific unit that I believe remains undervalued or overvalued.
In this specific game, it's a little of both for me. Ultimately, I believe Los Angeles will come out on top by taking advantage of an extremely vulnerable Jacksonville secondary that I have ranked as one of the worst in the league.
The Jaguars particularly struggled in terms of defending short passes (31st in NFL). That spells trouble against an L.A. passing attack that lives in that area — sometimes too much to a fault but that won't hurt Justin Herbert here.
I just don't think the market is properly accounting for how vulnerable the Jaguars secondary is after facing the easiest schedule of opposing quarterbacks of any team in the league in 2022. Look no further than their own division where they got to face the Colts, Texans and Titans a combined six times with a matchup against Josh Dobbs to decide the division.
On the other side of the ball, Trevor Lawrence still struggles against a few specific coverage types, which I'm sure the Chargers will employ with a high frequency on Sunday. I have my doubts about Brandon Staley and the offensive coaching staff, but the Chargers still boast a very sharp defensive staff that will also benefit from a unit that continues to get healthier with each passing day.
Notable Nugget: As a favorite or an underdog of fewer than 2.5 pts, Trevor Lawrence is 2-8 SU and 1-9 ATS in his career.
Final Score Prediction: Chargers 24, Jaguars 21