The AFC is the most wide open it has been in years even though the Baltimore Ravens are sizable favorites to be Super Bowl champions. New England’s slow decline over the second half of the season has given every team hope that this could be the year they finally knock off the vaunted Patriots, and the spreads in the conference’s two Wild Card games reflect this sentiment. The Pats are only favored by 4.5 points at home against the No. 6 seed Tennessee Titans per the NFL betting odds, while Houston is favored by less than a field goal against Buffalo.
Houston Texans -2.5 vs. Buffalo Bills, O/U 43
It’s nearly a rite of passage for Houston to play in the first game of Wild Card Weekend at this point, but this is arguably the most exciting game that the Texans have ever played at this juncture. The Bills and Texans both have a chance to make the Super Bowl for entirely different reasons, and we will see two alternate styles on Saturday afternoon.
Houston relies on Deshaun Watson to create plays on offense. Watson will be one of the top five vote getters for the 2019 NFL MVP, and he has been electric this season. The third-year quarterback will almost certainly sign a max extension this offseason after completing 67.3 percent of his passes for 3,852 yards with 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, and he also showcased his legs by averaging 5.0 YPC.
Watson did all this despite playing behind a subpar offensive line. Houston gave up a small fortune for left tackle Laremy Tunsil, but the Texans’ franchise quarterback was still sacked 44 times and Tunsil was responsible for a whopping 12 false start penalties in 2019. He did have plenty of help at the skill positions though with Deandre Hopkins having another Pro Bowl season, while Carlos Hyde had the best year of his career.
The Bills trust their defense to win games, and they have the potential to shut down the Texans’ offense on Saturday. Tre’Davious White has been one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL this season, and he can stop Hopkins from being the game changing talent he can be for this franchise. Houston’s other top receivers Will Fuller and Kenny Stills are both questionable to play, and it will be a problem if they can’t go for the Texans on Saturday.
Buffalo wants to protect the ball and wear opposing front sevens down with its ground game. Josh Allen is the least talented passer of any quarterback in the playoffs, but he is the second-best running quarterback in the postseason behind Lamar Jackson. Sean McDermott has used Allen’s mobility to make this offense somewhat threatening, and Josh Brown has emerged as a deep threat that can help utilize Allen’s cannon arm.
The Texans are allowing 4.6 YPC, so this front seven could be in trouble. They are asking a lot from star defensive end J.J. Watt, but he won’t be at 100 percent after tearing his pectoral muscle earlier in the season. That sets the table up nicely for Buffalo, and the Bills can take advantage on Saturday.
Way too early look at Wild Card Weekend
Buf vs Hou
Opened: -3 & 41
Current: -2.5 & 43
Handle on the side: 51% for Hou
Bet Count: 55% for Buf
Handle on the total: 64% on the Under
Bet Count: 52% on the Under pic.twitter.com/OyzR3v909z
— Official Bookmaker (@bookmaker_eu) December 31, 2019
New England Patriots -4.5 vs. Tennessee Titans, O/U 43.5
The Patriots have not been great on offense. New England’s offense has repeatedly stalled over the second half of the season, as Buffalo showed everyone how to shut this team down earlier in the year. Tom Brady relies on Julian Edelman and James White in the passing game way too much, and Sony Michel just hasn’t gotten it done on the ground. Unless N’Keal Harry or Jakobi Meyers suddenly emerge as the downfield threat the Patriots need to keep defenses from crowding the line of scrimmage once more, Tennessee should limit this offense. The Titans have one of the best safeties in the NFL in Kevin Byard, and the weather will impact the passing game for both teams too as the forecast calls for constant rain on Friday on Saturday.
Tennessee’s season has undergone a 180 under Ryan Tannehill. The Titans were largely ignored after starting the season 2-4 under Marcus Mariota, but the decision to roll the dice with Tannehill has paid off immensely. This team is 7-3 under the former Miami quarterback, and the only bad loss was to Carolina. Tennessee’s other two losses came against Houston and New Orleans, but the Titans ran all over Kansas City to show they can be a threat in the playoffs.
Derrick Henry is a workhorse running back that gets more effective with more carries, so Tennessee wants to lean on the Heisman Trophy winner to pound this defense. New England has arguably the best defense in the league though, so this could be a very low scoring game, making the under the best play.
Check out the latest NFL betting odds.