Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) celebrates during the second quarter of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Brett Carlsen)
- Wild Card Weekend kicks off Saturday, January 9th
- Our Best Bets were 3-0 in Week 17 (23-29-2 overall, -8.1 units)
- Read below for analysis on the Wild Card Weekend slate and our favorite ATS picks
The NFL playoffs are here, and for the first time ever Wild Card Weekend Weekend will feature six games. Extra games mean more options at online sportsbooks, and we don’t have to look past the first contest on the playoff slate to find value.
Fresh off a 30-point dismantling of Miami, that crushed the Dolphins playoff hopes, the 13-3 Buffalo Bills host the 11-5 Indianapolis Colts in Orchard Park. Buffalo enters play winners of six straight, and have covered the spread in eight consecutive outings. They finished an NFL-best 11-5 ATS this season, but aren’t getting the kind of respect you’d expect in the betting market.
Wild Card Weekend ATS Picks
|Indianapolis Colts vs Buffalo Bills||BUF (-6.5)||BUF (-6.5)||1|
|Baltimore Ravens vs Tennessee Titans||BAL (-3)||BAL (-3)||1|
|Chicago Bears vs New Orleans Saints||NO (-10)||CHI (+10)||1|
Odds taken Jan. 6th at FanDuel and DraftKings. See bottom for rest of Wild Card Weekend picks.
Pick #1: Bills Crush Colts
The Bills opened up as a 6.5-point favorite, and after some early money pushed them to -7, the line has come back down to where it opened. Buffalo ended the season by winning each of its final six games by double-digits, outscoring their opponents by 119 points.
A season to remember. 👏#GoBills | #BillsMafia pic.twitter.com/ezvDBYu1wL
— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) January 7, 2021
Buffalo finished the season as Pro Football Focus’ third highest graded offense, and only Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes finished with a higher QBR than Josh Allen.
#RoundingUpTheHerd: Josh Allen’s 2020 regular season was historic ⬇️⬇️ pic.twitter.com/bPnQzbVemu
— Buffalo Bills PR (@BuffaloBillsPR) January 4, 2021
Speaking of Allen, the third-year star finished with a completion percentage of 69.2% this season, making all the experts who said he’d never improve his accuracy look like complete fools. You know who’s never had a season with a completion percentage that high? Only Tom Brady, arguably the greatest QB to ever play the game.
Allen accounted for 19 TD over the final six games of the regular season, and beat some pretty impressive teams during his breakout campaign. Buffalo was 5-2 against teams that finished above .500 in 2020, beating three fellow playoff teams along the way.
#Shoutout: Stefon Diggs led the entire #NFL in both catches (127) and receiving yards (1,535) in 2020, becoming the first player in team history to do so. pic.twitter.com/wDVZZGGPOg
— Buffalo Bills PR (@BuffaloBillsPR) January 4, 2021
Allen’s favorite target Stefon Diggs led the NFL in both receptions and receiving yards, and their defense improved significantly as the season progressed. The Bills finished with the league’s sixth highest graded pass rush, and held three of their last four opponents below 20 points.
Indy meanwhile, enters play winners of four of their past five, but not one of those wins came against a team with more than eight victories. The Colts faced one of the easiest schedules in the league, and their impressive DVOA ranking (10th) is inflated by their weak competition.
Congratulations to the Colts. They are in the playoffs but will have a tall order going to Buffalo next week. Bills are hot and playing well in all three phases.
— Tony Dungy (@TonyDungy) January 4, 2021
Phillip Rivers and company are in for a rude awakening when they travel to Buffalo in expected freezing conditions, and just don’t have the firepower to keep up with Buffalo.
Super Bowl 55 Odds Tracker
Pick #2: Ravens Over Titans
Aside from the Bills, there isn’t a team you’d like to avoid more than the Baltimore Ravens. Baltimore closed the season with five straight wins, and are 3-point road favorites in Tennessee. The Ravens covered in each of their last six outings, and will be out to avenge last year’s Divisional Round loss to the Titans.
The Ravens and Titans will meet for the fifth time in the playoffs. That’s more than the Ravens have played any other team in the postseason (surpassing the Patriots).
The Ravens have won both times they played in Nashville. The Titans won both times in Baltimore.
— Ryan Mink (@ryanmink) January 4, 2021
No playoff team is playing worse on defense at the moment than Tennessee, while the Baltimore offense caught fire over the final five weeks. Baltimore ran for 404 yards in a Week 17 win over Cincinnati, and once again led the league in rushing. Lamar Jackson meanwhile, struggled through the early part of the season, but ended the year playing like his former MVP self.
I’m not sure we’ve ever taken a talent more for granted than @Lj_era8.
Lamar Jackson has been a top 5 Quarterback & running back at the same time! #RavensFlock pic.twitter.com/QeEqWz4Jxv
— Emmanuel Acho (@EmmanuelAcho) January 6, 2021
Jackson accounted for 15 touchdowns over the final five weeks, helping the Ravens outscore their opponents by 97 points.
Their defense ranks second in points allowed and eighth against the run, but will certainly have their hands full with rushing King Derrick Henry.
DERRICK HENRY IS FROM ANOTHER PLANET
▪️2,027 rush yards
▪️17 rush TD
No one has ever exceeded both of these marks in a single season in NFL history. pic.twitter.com/YPgriyVooo
— NFLonCBS (@NFLonCBS) January 4, 2021
The problem for Henry and the Titans is we’ve seen how ineffective he can be when the team falls behind. Just two weeks ago against the Green Bay Packers, Henry was a complete non-factor after Tennessee got down a couple scores. With how badly the Titans are playing on defense, and how well the Ravens offense is performing, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if Tennessee had to abandon the run to try and keep pace with Baltimore.
Pick #3: Bears Cover vs Saints
Sharp bettors are in line for a fantastic middling opportunity when the Chicago Bears visit the New Orleans Saints. New Orleans opened as 7-point favorites, but money quickly poured in on them moving the line to -8.5. The Saints love didn’t stop there, as bettors continued to hammer them until the number eventually settled at -10.
Bears. Saints. Sunday.#DaBears | 🐻⬇️ pic.twitter.com/mDmJR9NNkn
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) January 4, 2021
With all due respect to New Orleans, this line is too high. Let’s not forget that the Bears took the Saints to overtime in Week 8, before losing by a field goal in overtime, and New Orleans is still dealing with injuries to three of its most important offensive pieces. Both Drew Brees (ribs) and Michael Thomas (ankle) will be less than a 100% for this matchup, while Alvin Kamara is fresh off testing positive for COVID.
Playoff note: The #Saints play the #Bears next Sunday at 3:40 pm. That means RB Alvin Kamara has a chance to play, if cleared off the COVID-19 reserve list.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 4, 2021
The Bears meanwhile, had their three-game winning streak snapped in Week 17, but their 35-16 loss to Green Bay is a tad misleading. This was a 5-point game late in the 4th quarter, until a turnover on downs and a Mitchell Trubisky interception paved the way for two late Packers’ TD. Chicago dominated the time of possession, and held the vaunted Green Bay offense to just 316 total yards.
Are they likely to beat the Saints? No, but they can certainly cover 10 points.
Wild Card Weekend Quick Picks
- Seahawks (-3.5) vs Rams: Whether its Jared Goff or John Wolford at QB for LA this week shouldn’t affect our decision. The Seahawks are playing inspired defense, and allowed just 23.1 points per game over their final eight outings.
- Washington (+8.5) vs Buccaneers: Tom Brady in primetime alert. Brady and the Bucs are 1-3 under the lights this season, failing to cover in each game.
- Steelers (-6) vs Browns: Shout out to those who hammered this line when it was -4 as soon as all the Cleveland COVID troubles broke. Now at -6 it’s a little less enticing, but it’s hard to imagine the Browns being fully prepared. Their head coach is battling the virus and they’ve been forced to practice virtually all week.