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NFL wild-card round capsules

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS AT BUFFALO BILLS

This AFC interdivisional grudge match kicks off wild-card weekend. The Colts (11-5 SU, 8-8 ATS) snuck into the playoffs as the No. 7 seed, needing a win against the Jaguars (28-14) in Week 17 and a Dolphins loss to the Bills to punch their ticket to the postseason. Indianapolis won four of its last five games and finished with + 89 in point differential. Meanwhile, the Bills (13-3, 11-5 ATS) tied for the second-best record in the NFL and enter the playoffs as the No. 2 seed. Buffalo has won six straight and just crushed Miami 56-26, winning outright as a 3-point home dog. The Bills won the AFC East and finished + 126 in point differential. This line opened with Buffalo as a 7-point home favorite. The public is all over the Bills, who look like a juggernaut. However, despite more than two-thirds of bets laying the points, we’ve seen this line drop to 6.5. This sharp reverse-line movement signals pro money grabbing the Colts + 7. Wild-card dogs getting 7 points or fewer are roughly 58% ATS over the last decade. Playoff dogs that see the line stay the same or move in their favor are 57% ATS. The Colts also are one of the top contrarian plays of the weekend as the public is loading up on Buffalo. We’ve also seen some Under liability. The public is hammering the Over, yet the total has remained frozen at 52 or dipped slightly to 51.5. Both teams were profitable to the Over during the regular season (Colts 9-7, Bills 11-4-1). But outdoor playoff Unders have cashed roughly 57% over the last decade.

LOS ANGELES RAMS AT SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

This NFC West showdown is the middle game of Saturday’s tripleheader. The Rams (10-6 SU, 9-7 ATS) squeaked into the playoffs as the No. 6 seed, beating the Cardinals 18-7 as 1-point home favorites in Week 17. Los Angeles finished + 76 in point differential. The Rams will lean on the coaching on Sean McVay and their stellar defense as they once again turn to rookie quarterback John Wolford in place of injured Jared Goff. Wolford won his debut over Arizona last week, throwing for 231 yards, no touchdowns and one interception and rushing for 56 yards. Meanwhile, the Seahawks (12-4 SU, 8-8 ATS) finished on a high note, winning four straight and beating the 49ers 26-23 in Week 17, though they failed to cover as 7-point road favorites. Seattle won the NFC West and earned the No. 3 seed, finishing + 88 in point differential. This line opened with Seattle as a 4.5-point home favorite. This public is laying the short spread with Russell Wilson at home. However, we’ve seen a sharp move to the road dog, with the Rams falling from + 4.5 to + 4. Some shops are even touching 3.5. Playoff dogs with a line move in their favor of at least a half-point are roughly 75% ATS over the last decade. The Rams also have value as a divisional dog and a dog with a low total. The total has dipped slightly from 43 to 42.5. Both of these teams were profitable to the Under this season, with the Rams 12-4 and Seahawks 9-7. Referee John Hussey historically has favored Unders (57%). Outdoor playoff Unders are roughly 57% over the last decade. The Seahawks beat the Rams 20-9 in Week 16 after losing 23-16 in the first meeting in Week 10. 

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS AT WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM

This prime-time nonconference matchup is the late game on Saturday. Tom Brady has led the Buccaneers (11-5 SU, 9-7 ATS) to the playoffs for the first time since 2007. Tampa Bay played its best football down the stretch, winning its final four games and waxing the Falcons 44-27 in Week 17, easily covering as a 7-point home favorite. The Bucs enter as the No. 5 seed after finishing + 137 in point differential. Meanwhile, Washington (7-9 SU, 8-7-1 ATS) snuck into the playoffs by beating the Eagles 20-14 in Week 17, though they failed to cover as a 6.5-point road favorite. Washington went 5-2 down the stretch and won the NFC East, earning the No. 4 seed. This line opened with the Bucs as hefty 7.5-point or 8-point road favorites. The public is absolutely hammering Brady and the Bucs, expecting an easy win and cover. This lopsided action moved the line to Tampa -9. That’s when we saw some buyback on Washington, dropping the line back to 8.5. Washington is your top contrarian play of the weekend as they are receiving only about one-third of bets in a prime-time game. Big playoff dogs of + 7 or more are roughly 57% ATS over the last decade. Tampa Bay is in prime teaser territory. If you drop them from -8.5 to -2.5, you pass through two key numbers (7 and 3). We’ve also seen some Under money show up, dropping the total from 46.5 to 45. The Bucs are 9-7 to the Over this season, but Washington is 10-5-1 to the Under. This under matches a pair of profitable playoff systems: outdoor Unders and wild-card Unders that drop (roughly 60% over the last decade). 

BALTIMORE RAVENS AT TENNESSEE TITANS

This early Sunday showdown is a rematch of last year’s divisional-round matchup, which saw sixth-seeded Tennessee shock top-seeded Baltimore 30-24. The Ravens (11-5 SU, 10-5-1 ATS) caught fire down the stretch this season, winning their last five games to earn the No. 5 seed. They crushed Cincinnati 38-3 in Week 17, easily covering as 13.5-point road favorites. The Ravens finished with a + 165 point differential, best in the NFL. Meanwhile, the Titans (11-5 SU, 7-9 ATS) won the AFC South and went 3-1 down the stretch, earning the No. 4 seed. Tennessee won a 41-38 thriller over Houston in Week 17, though they failed to cover as 7-point road favorites. The Titans finished + 52 in point differential. This line opened with Baltimore as a 3.5-point road favorite. The public is laying the points with the red-hot Ravens, yet we’ve seen this line fall to the key number of 3. This is a classic example of sharp reverse-line movement, with pros scooping up Tennessee plus the hook (+ 3.5) and forcing oddsmakers to drop this line in their favor. Tennessee has value as a contrarian home dog and a playoff dog with a line move in their favor (75% ATS the last decade). We’ve also seen playoff dogs of + 7 or less cover roughly 59% or less in the wild-card round over the last decade. Pros and Joes seem to be united on this Over, driving the total up slightly from 54.5 to 55. Referee Jerome Boger has been profitable for home teams (56% ATS) and Overs (60%). The Titans were the top Over team in the regular season (12-3-1). The Ravens were 7-9 to the Under.

CHICAGO BEARS AT NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

This NFC late-afternoon Sunday clash features the biggest spread of wild-card weekend. The Bears (8-8 SU, 8-8 ATS) got crushed by the Packers 35-16 in Week 17, failing to cover as 4.5-point home dogs. However, Chicago still snuck into the playoffs as the seventh seed, thanks to a tiebreaker over Arizona. The Bears finished + 2 in point differential, second worst of all playoffs teams ahead of only Cleveland (-11). Meanwhile, the Saints (12-4 SU, 9-6-1 ATS) won the NFC South and finished tied for the second-best record in the conference, trailing only the Packers. New Orleans crushed Carolina 33-7 in Week 17, easily covering as a 6-point road favorite. The Saints finished + 145 in point differential, best in the NFC. This line opened with New Orleans as a 9.5-point home favorite. This public is all over the Saints and happy to fade Mitchell Trubisky. This lopsided support has pushed the line to the key number of 10. We’ve seen some buyback on the Bears at + 10, with juice hinting toward a possible drop back to 9.5. Chicago has value as a contrarian playoff dog with an inflated line. Big playoff dogs of + 7 or more are roughly 57% ATS in the last decade. We’ve also seen some Under money hit the market, dropping the total from 47.5 to 47. The Saints were 10-6 to the Over this season, with Chicago 8-8. Playoff dome game Overs are roughly 70% over the last decade. 

CLEVELAND BROWNS AT PITTSBURGH STEELERS

This Sunday night showdown caps wild-card weekend. The Browns (11-5 SU, 6-10 ATS) enter as the No. 6 seed, returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2002. Cleveland finished with a -11 point differential, the worst of any playoff team this season. The Steelers (12-4 SU, 10-6 ATS) started 11-0 but stumbled down the stretch, going 1-4. Still, Pittsburgh earned the No. 3 seed and finished with a + 104 point differential. These teams met last week, with the Browns winning 24-22 but the Steelers covering as 10-point road dogs. Pittsburgh rested most of their starters, including Ben Roethlisberger. This line opened with Pittsburgh listed as a 3.5-point home favorite. Pros targeted the Steelers early, driving this line up to -4.5. But then on Tuesday morning news broke that coach Kevin Stefanski and several other coaches and players tested positive for COVID-19. As a result, this line skyrocketed to Steelers -6. It may rise even further if new positives pop up. When a line moves at least 1 point toward a team in the playoffs, those teams have covered at a 58% clip over the last decade. Pittsburgh will be a very popular teaser play this weekend, as you could move the Steelers from -6 down to a pick-'em. Cleveland has value as a contrarian divisional dog in a prime-time game with an inflated line. We’ve also seen Over money flood the market following the COVID news, driving the total from 46.5 to 47.5. Wild-card unders are roughly 64% over the last decade, with outdoor Unders roughly 57%. The Browns were 9-7 to the Over this season, with the Steelers 8-7-1.

 

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