Welcome to the NFL Playoffs! Today Wild Card Weekend begins with a triple-header of Saturday games. Historically, the postseason has been a great time to go to contrarian and back unpopular dogs. Why? Because each game is a standalone primetime game attracting massive betting action. Basically, each game is like a Monday Night Football game in terms of betting handle. The market is flooded with public action, which provides heavier than usual public bias to bet against. And the public will almost always back the favorites, which creates buy-low value play opportunities to back dogs.
Over the past three seasons, NFL postseason dogs are 21-12 ATS (64%), with Wild Card dogs a blistering 11-1 ATS (92%). We've also seen unders crush it over the past three seasons, going 19-14 (57.6%), including 10-2 (83%) on Wild Card Weekend. This rise in dogs and unders has coincided with the expansion of legalized betting, which has brought in millions more public bettors to the market.
For extensive Saturday betting analysis, be sure to join Michael Lombardi, Patrick Meagher, Mike Palm, Thomas Gable and myself this morning from 10 a.m.-noon ET on The Lombardi Line. We'll be dissecting all the big matchups, the top lines moves and breaking down late sharp action across all the major spots.
In the meantime, let's discuss where the money is flowing for today's games...
1:05 p.m. ET: Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills
The Colts (11-5 SU, 8-8 ATS) snuck into the playoffs as the 7th seed, needing a win against the Jaguars (28-14) in Week 17 and a loss from the Dolphins in order to punch their ticket to the postseason. Indianapolis won four of their last five games and finished with + 89 in point differential on the season. Meanwhile, the Bills (13-3, 11-5 ATS) tied for the 2nd-best record in the NFL during the regular season and enter the playoffs as the 2-seed. Buffalo has won six straight and just crushed Miami 56-26, winning outright as 3-point home dogs. The Bills won the AFC East and finished the regular season + 126 in point differential.
This line opened with Buffalo listed as a 7-point home favorite. The public is all over the Bills, who look like an unstoppable juggernaut. However, despite more than two-thirds of bets laying the points, we've seen this line drop to 6.5. Some books have even touched 6. This sharp reverse line movement signals pro money grabbing the Colts plus the points, ideally at + 7. Wild Card dogs getting 7-points or less are roughly 58% ATS over the past decade. Playoff dogs that see the line stay the same or move in their favor are 57% ATS. Indianapolis is also one of the top contrarian plays of the weekend as the public is loading up on Buffalo. The Bills will be an incredibly popular teaser play this weekend, with many bettors taking Buffalo down from -6.5 to -0.5. We've also seen some under money show up. The public is hammering the over, yet the total has fallen from 52 to 51.5 or even 51. Both teams were profitable to the over during the regular season (Colts 9-7, Bills 11-4-1). But historically, outdoor playoff unders have cashed roughly 57% over the past decade. The weather calls for low 30s, partly cloudy and mild 5-10 MPH winds.
4:40 p.m. ET: Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks
The Rams (10-6 SU, 9-7 ATS) squeaked into the playoffs as the 6-seed, beating the Cardinals 18-7 as 1-point home favorites in the regular season finale. Los Angeles finished + 76 in point differential on the season. The Rams will lean on the coaching of Sean McVay and their stellar defense. We still don't know whether Jared Goff (broken thumb) or John Wolford will start at quarterback. Wolford won his debut over Arizona last week, throwing for 231 yards, no touchdowns, 1 interception and rushed for 56 yards. Meanwhile, the Seahawks (12-4 SU, 8-8 ATS) finished the regular season on a high-note, winning four straight and beating the 49ers 26-23 in Week 17, although they failed to cover as 7-point road favorites. Seattle won the NFC West and earned the 3-seed, finishing + 88 in point differential for the season.
This line opened with Seattle listed as a 4.5-point home favorite. This is the clearest "Pros vs Joes" game of the weekend as the public is hammering Russell Wilson at home, yet we've seen a sharp move to the road dog, with the Rams falling from + 4.5 to + 3. Pros targeted the Rams getting at least the hook (+ 3.5) or more). The Rams also have value as a contrarian divisional dog and a dog with a low total. The total has taken in some respected under money, falling from 42.5 to 42. Both of these teams were profitable to the under this season, with the Rams 12-4 and Seahawks 9-7. John Hussey, the lead ref, has historically favored unders (57%). Outdoor playoff unders are roughly 57% over the past decade. The Seahawks beat the Rams 20-9 in Week 16. Los Angeles beat Seattle 23-16 in Week 10.
8:15 p.m. ET: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Washington
Tom Brady has led the Buccaneers (11-5 SU, 9-7 ATS) to the playoffs for the first time since 2007. Tampa Bay played their best football down the stretch, winning their final four games and waxing the Falcons 44-27 in Week 17, easily covering as 7-point home favorites. Tampa enters as the 5-seed and finished + 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, although they failed to cover as 6.5-point road favorites. The Football Team went 5-2 down the stretch and won the NFC East, earning the 4-seed.
This line opened with the Bucs listed as a hefty 7.5-point road favorites. The public is rushing to the window to back Brady and the Bucs, expecting an easy win and cover. This lopsided action moved the line up to Tampa -8.5 or -9. Over the last 24-48 hours we've seen some buy back on Washington, dropping this line down to 8. Washington is your top contrarian play of the weekend as they are only receiving about one-third of bets in a primetime game. Big playoff dogs of + 7 or more are roughly 57% ATS over the past decade. Brady is 0-4 ATS this season in primetime games. We've also seen some under money show up, dropping the total from 46.5 to 44.5. 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 past decade). The forecast calls for mid-30s with 10 MPH winds.