Mile High Sports NFL Wild Card Weekend Betting Primer

The NFL playoffs are finally here, which means it is time to run the board in the latest NFL betting primer presented by SuperBook Sports.

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The overall goal of this primer is to paint a picture of the weekend NFL betting slate so you can dive into it with your head on straight. Sports betting is here, and if you are going to bet, you might as well get an edge, right?

All odds are courtesy of SuperBook Sports, and if you are looking for a place to watch and bet the games in person, head up to The Lodge Casino and check out the retail SuperBook sportsbook! Let’s get after it…

Las Vegas Raiders @ Cincinnati Bengals: LV +5.5, CIN -5.5, o/u 49

The Raiders find themselves in a playoff game after winning four of their last five contests down the stretch. The spread opened Bengals -6.5 and has dropped to -5.5, indicating that some respected money has come in on the Raiders over the course of the week. This is the first time we have seen the Bengals in the playoffs since the 1990s, and even going back that far the playoffs have not treated them very well. The Bengals are 0-6-1 ATS in their last seven playoff games and have not won in the big dance since 1991. 

This season, Joe Burrow has been electric and is a prime candidate to win CPOY potentially. Over the last four weeks, Burrow has been on fire, completing just under 76% of his passes, throwing for 11 touchdowns with no interceptions. The Bengals will need this version of Burrow once again if they want to cover this spread. Stylistically, this matchup is pretty intriguing. Burrow and the Bengals’ offense have been at their best when playing against man coverage mixed in with blitzing from the opposition. The Raiders are not known to be a blitzing team and love to play zone defense which could make finding receivers a bit more difficult for Burrow. 

That said, Cincinnati enters this game relatively healthy with wide receivers Ja’mar Chase and Tee Higgins both ready to go as well as running back Joe Mixon. I keep asking myself: is this too many points for this Bengals squad? Yes, they won the competitive AFC North, but how will they respond to their first playoff game? The Raiders don’t have much playoff experience, but there is certainly less pressure on them in this game after they clinched the playoffs when nobody thought they would. Will the Bengals play tight? How will Zac Taylor coach the game? Cincy was 6-5 this season against non-playoff teams. 

This season, these two clashed, and the Bengals won that game 32-12. That spread was a near pick em,’ and now Cincy is laying 5.5 despite the recent play from Vegas? Let’s also not forget that it was a one-possession game heading into the fourth quarter that Vegas blew with turnovers. The Raiders defense sacked Burrow 3x during that game and limited him to just 148 passing yards. Can they do it again? If they can, the Raiders are a live team here. As of Friday afternoon, 60% of the tickets are on Vegas at SuperBook Sports.

If you want to bet the Bengals, you might as well get some +money at -6.5 as boss man Nate Lundy suggested at the studio today. This could also be a spot to tease Cincy down and pair them with another favorite (Bucs). All in all, I think the Bengals are the better team here, but I feel like it’s too many points for me to lay with a team that has minimal playoff experience across the board. I’m leaning towards the Raiders with the points for this matchup.

New England Patriots @ Buffalo Bills: NE +4, BUF -4, o/u 44 

The trilogy. Can the Bills make it two-in-a-row against the Evil Empire, or will the Pats strike back? First, let’s get the trends out of the way… the underdog is 5-1-1 ATS in their last 7 meetings, and the Pats are 15-3 ATS in their previous 18 meetings in Buffalo. Furthermore, the dog is 19-6-2 ATS in their previous 27 meetings… this trend was cash money in both matchups this season. 

The temperature will undoubtedly be a factor here as it’s expected to be in the single-digits for this p.m. kickoff. This is similar to the first matchup where the Patriots escaped with the victory despite Mac Jones throwing the ball three times. The Bills were rearing after that loss and took care of business in the rematch by being aggressive on offense and putting the pressure on the Pats’ rookie quarterback. 

These teams are trending in opposite directions, with the Bills trending upwards and the Pats trending downwards after the regular season. There are plenty of concerns with a quarterback making his first career playoff start, as we will revisit later in this primer, but we are talking about the greatest coach of all-time here.

I’ll be damned if the Pats don’t have something creative drawn up. The Bills’ defense allowed the fewest average yards to opposing teams during the regular season; however, their pass defense is miles above their run defense. Buffalo allowed an average of 163 passing yards per game, which was good for the top spot in the league. On the flip, the Bills allowed an average of 109 rushing yards per game, good for 13th in the NFL. New England has a top-10 rushing attack and will surely look to pound the trenches early and often to set up passes later in the game for Mac Jones. It’s not hard to make a strong case for either team, but there is one way I’m looking when it comes to the spread. The public is pretty split as well, with 55% of the tickets on the Bills and 45% on the Pats, per SuperBook. 

With these two being in the same division mixed with frigid weather and coaching mastery from New England, the Patriots over a field goal is tempting. If Buffalo wants to win this game they will need to establish dominance from the outset. The longer it takes for the Bills to settle into a groove, the better the Pats’ chance to pull off the upset. Belichick wants to make this an ugly game, and he’s capable of doing that. He’s had time to prepare for this matchup and knows the Bills franchise exceptionally well. Buffalo and New England ranked number 1 and 2 in average points allowed this season. It should be a slugfest, and I’m leaning towards the Pats with the points so long as it stays over a field goal. 

Philadelphia Eagles @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers: PHI +8.5, TB -8.5, o/u 46

I’ll come right out and say it: I am concerned about betting Brady as a big favorite in the playoffs. The Super Bowl last year is one of the few instances where we have seen a Brady-led team dominate a team in the postseason that I can recall. This is Tampa’s game to lose, but the Eagles are the type of team that can turn a game ugly in an attempt to keep it close. 

Brady is a bit shaky historically ATS in the wild card round. In the wild card round, Brady is 2-3 ATS and has failed to cover in his last three wild card contests. Furthermore, since 2017, teams favored by 5+ points are 1-10 ATS and have won just five of those contests outright. Pair this with the recent trends of dogs in the wild card round, and we might have something here.

In the postseason, Brady is also 0-5 ATS against the NFC East. The Bucs are down Antonio Brown and Chirs Godwin, which is sure to hamper their offensive ceiling. While Gronk and Mike Evans are still playing, the Bucs options are not at full strength. Philly has one of the best rushing attacks in the league and could put together some long drives against a suspect Bucs defense.

Look, I’m not saying the Eagles will pull off the upset, but this is another game that feels like too many points for the favorite. That said, Tampa is taking in 75% of the bets in this one, according to SuperBook. So I’ll look to play Tampa in a teaser, if anything. You could consider teasing Tampa down to -2.5 and pairing them with the Bengals at +1.5 if you want to minimize risk with the favorites this week. 

San Francisco 49ers @ Dallas Cowboys: SF +3, DAL -3, o/u 51 

Oh, Dem Boys. Where do we even start? Let me preface by saying I’m a Cowboys fan so take that as you please. I’m also on record of calling the 49ers the Fraudy9ers, so here we are. Let’s dive into it… 

The 49ers were a wagon in the second half of the season. San Francisco won 7 of their last 9 games to get into the playoffs after a rough start to the year. After deciding to roll with Jimmy Garoppolo as a full-time starter, things finally started to kick into gear for the 49ers. 

On the flip, Dallas started the year strong but was a bit inconsistent down the stretch, especially their offense. The Cowboys had one of the highest-scoring offenses in the league this season. Still, there is no question they were a different team in the second half of the season, in particular after quarterback Dak Prescott came back from his injury. Prescott is 0-3 ATS in the playoffs for his career and was on record this week talking about how pressure isn’t necessarily a bad thing and brings out the best in teams. 

“I don’t know why people label the word pressure as such a bad thing,” Prescott said “I think it creates high expectations and high standards, and it usually creates high results.”

This is a massive game for the Dallas Cowboys. If Mike McCarthy loses this one, I think there’s a good chance he’s placed on the hot seat. Dallas entered the season with Super Bowl or bust expectations, and they need to beat the 49ers here if they want to be taken seriously. McCarthy is 11-6-1 ATS in his postseason career, with all of those wins coming as head coach of the Green Bay Packers. That said, he has yet to beat an NFC West opponent in the playoffs, posting an 0-5 record SU. 

There is no denying the Cowboys are the beneficiaries of a soft schedule and nearly every legitimate test they faced this season they failed. Sure they looked good Week 1 against Tampa Bay, but they lost that game. They also lost to the Arizona Cardinals, Las Vegas Raiders, and Kansas City Chiefs. Their “best“ wins of the season came against the Patriots (a game they could have very well lost), Chargers, Eagles and Saints. Not necessarily anything to ride home about. 

This is the tightest spread of the week and the only matchup between two teams that did not play in the regular season. Dallas posted a league-best cover percentage and finished 10-3 ATS this season. With that, San Francisco was 7-2 ATS in their last 9 regular-season games. 

The 49ers have been dynamite as an underdog under Kyle Shanahan, going 10-7 SU and 12-5 as an underdog ATS over the last three years. Garoppolo is 13-4 ATS for his career as an underdog, although he will be banged up with a hand injury. 

The Cowboys are the more talented team on paper, but it’s the Cowboys we are talking about here. They constantly get clowned in the big game, and there’s nothing to suggest this time will be any different. The 49ers have momentum, a better coach, and more quality wins on the season. It really depends on which version of the Cowboys we get on Sunday afternoon. 

If Prescott is locked in, Zeke turns back the clock, and the offensive line is stable, the Cowboys can run the score up. Those are all BIG ifs. I expect the Dallas defense to be rearing and ready to go. Assuming Micah Parsons, Randy Gregory and Demarcus Lawrence can put pressure on Garoppolo, the Dallas D could set themselves up to snag a few turnovers. Garoppolo has been good at protecting the ball down the stretch, but he gets rattled under pressure, and the Cowboys lead the league in turnover differential. 

Stopping the San Francisco offense will be no easy task as they are relatively healthy entering this game. George Kittle, Debo Samuel, and Brandon Aiyuk are all good to go. The big question is the health of Trent Williams. Williams is expected to play, but he’s been hobbled by an elbow injury and did not practice on Thursday or Friday. He’s an anchor of the 49ers’ line, and if he’s not at 100%, that’s an area Dallas can look to exploit. 

I have to stick with my guns here. I like the Cowboys to win the game, and I’ve been dogging the Fraudy9ers all season. It’s a tough matchup for Dallas, but the only game where the public is on the side of the underdog, which is shocking, with 58% of the tickets coming on San Francisco. We will see if that changes leading up to the game. If Dallas plays like we know they can, they can blow the doors off San Francisco and make a statement. The 49ers are the trendy pick, but I am siding with Dallas. I’m not in love with the number, but I’ll lean with the -3 and look for a live spot if Dallas gets down early. 

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Kansas City Chiefs: PIT +12.5, KC -12.5, o/u 46 

The largest spread of the week. The Chiefs begin their quest to win their third consecutive AFC crown this week at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers. This is the first time we have seen Patrick Mahomes play a game in the wild card round, and assuming they advance, it could be the first time we see him play a playoff game on the road. I’m not thrilled with the line for this game, but if there’s ever a coach that I’d be willing to back as an ugly dog in this scenario, it’s Mike Tomlin. 

As my colleague Andrew Mason pointed out on his Friday radio program, the Steelers might be playing with a happy to be here mentality and will undoubtedly be the looser team. Knowing their offensive struggles, could we see Pittsburgh try to get a little creative and run some trickery on offense? I’m not sure, but all bets are off with this Steelers team as they indeed are playing with house money at this point. There’s also the emotional factor of Ben Roethlisberger, as this is shaping up to be his final season in the NFL. Perhaps he can dig deep and pull out a vintage performance come Sunday evening. Ben is 3-1-1 ATS for his career as a road dog in the postseason. 

Many are pointing to the Chiefs’ regular season beat down of the Steelers back on December 26 as reasoning for why they will be able to dismantle and cover the spread with ease. I’m not so sure. KC won that game 36-10, but the playoffs bring a different type of intensity, and while I think Kansas City is the superior team, I’m not sure they should be laying 12+ points here. However, some trends say otherwise as double-digit favorites are an impressive 7-1 ATS in the wild card round.  

TJ Watt is set up to win DPOY, and the Chiefs defense has looked a bit suspect in recent games. Still, it’s hard to have confidence with this Steelers team, but I like to back coaches as much as players. Tomlin is one of the finest coaches in the league, and he’s made me money this season. My affinity with Tomlin is nothing new if you’ve read the primers or watched the Football Friday show. I’ll probably sprinkle on the Steelers and ride the Big Ben wagon till the wheels fall off. Better discretion is advised with this game. Over 90% of the money is on Kansas City. 

Arizona Cardinals @ Los Angeles Rams: AZ +4, LAR -4, o/u 49.5 

This one comes down to Matthew Stafford ultimately. The Rams traded for Stafford because they believed he was the missing piece to their Super Bowl aspirations. Many thought that the Detroit Lions were the reason for Stafford’s lack of success. This season has been anything but perfect for the Los Angeles Rams, who are coming off a tough defeat to the San Francisco 49ers in the final week of the regular season. Nevertheless, they find themselves division champions after the Arizona Cardinals failed to defeat the Seattle Seahawks last week.

Stafford has been unable to shake one narrative: he stinks against winning teams. From a betting perspective, Stafford is 32-53-2 ATS against winning teams for his career. Additionally, Stafford looked a lot better in the first half of the season than he did in the second half. He threw 17 interceptions this season, with 13 of them coming in the second half of the year. He has not been playing good football, and while the Rams managed to win some close games down the stretch, they are far from perfect entering this matchup against the division foe. 

That said, the Cardinals are not much better. I’m still shaking my head at the fact that they failed to beat the Seahawks last week in a game that would’ve clinched a division title. Neither one of these teams has a strong home-field advantage, so I don’t put much emphasis into that for the Rams. Arizona was 6-0 ATS an underdog this season, winning all six of those games outright. The Cards also played much better on the road than at home, going 8-1. 

While Kyle Shanahan has been a thorn in Sean McVay’s side, Kliff Kingsbury is not. McVay is 5–1 ATS against Kingsbury for his career and has rarely lost to the Cardinals since he became the head coach of the Rams. With that, underdogs have fared well in these situations, posting a 7-0 record ATS in rematches against division opponents since 2014. 

While I am less than thrilled with the recent play of Stafford, I worry about the Cardinals here. Getting JJ Watt back is sure to be a boost, but the Cardinals will be without star receiver DeAndre Hopkins. This is a massive loss for Arizona, as Hopkins is the player that elevates the Cardinals’ offense from good to great. Mix in the fact that this is the first career playoff start for Kyler Murray, and it seems like a tall task for this Cardinals team. Again though, we have the home team and the favorite laying over a field goal which is not ideal. I like the Rams in the game but might look to bet them live if they get down early. It feels like the end of the magic carpet ride for Arizona, although 53% of the tickets are on the Cardinals as of Friday. 

*****

That’s all for the betting primer! Be sure to check out the Football Friday Show and Podcast. What a great slate of games with plenty of different betting angles. I would like to note that in researching the games for this primer stats, trends and data were pulled from a variety of outlets including ESPN, Covers and The Action Network. These are all great resources for sports bettors and I highly recommend you do your homework before placing a bet. Enjoy the games everyone and happy betting! 

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