Super Wild Card weekend begins Saturday with three games, the Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills, Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Washington (Redskins) Football Team. The Bills and Seahawks are listed as home favorites, while Washington is a home underdog.
On Sunday the three remaining games are scheduled, the Baltimore Ravens at Tennessee Titans, Chicago Bears at New Orleans Saints and Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers. The Titans are a home underdog, while the Saints and Steelers are home favorites.
Kick off: Saturday NFL Wild Card Games on January 9 with games starting at 1:05, 4:40 and 8:15 p.m. Eastern Time.
Kick off: Sunday NFL Wild Card Games on January 10 with games starting at 1:05, 4:40 and 8:15 p.m. Eastern Time.
Let’s look at all six Wild Card games, odds and predictions.
Indianapolis vs Buffalo (1:05 pm ET, CBS)
Indianapolis Colts +6.5
Buffalo Bills -6.5
This first game on Saturday looks to be a mismatch, as the Bills are coming in red-hot, having won 13 games for the first time since 1991. They will be hosting their first playoff game in 24 years and they will be taking on an Indianapolis team that is counting on Philip Rivers to lead them to a playoff win.
If the Colts can’t slow down Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs then this game is going to turn into a rout. Allen threw 37 TD passes this season, while Diggs led the league in catches with 127. Indianapolis has a decent pass defense that ranked 7th in defense-adjusted value against the pass.
Do you really trust Philip Rivers to win a playoff game? If you take the Colts then you have to think they have a chance to win, because taking a small number of points with a team you don’t think can win is a bad bet. Rivers is 39-years old and his playoff record is 5-6 and two of those wins came in 2010. I don’t see any way that Rivers can make enough plays against a good Buffalo secondary for the Colts to win.
Wild Card Prediction: Buffalo -6.5 and the Over 52
I can’t see Rivers winning a big game and the Bills are red-hot, at home and full of confidence. This should be a solid Buffalo win in what could be a high scoring contest.
LA Rams at Seattle Seahawks (4:40 pm, FOX)
Los Angeles Rams +5
Seattle Seahawks -5
Two teams that know each other really well meet on Saturday afternoon in Seattle, as the Rams visit the Seahawks. These teams met just two weeks ago and the Seahawks pulled out an ugly defensive win. These two teams almost always play close games, with five of the last eight being decided by a touchdown or less. Neither offense has done much lately, so this could end up turning into another defensive battle
This game comes down to whether or not the Rams can find a way to score against an improved Seattle defense. We don’t know if Jared Goff will play but he was awful two weeks ago against the Seahawks and as strange as this sounds, the Rams might be better off with John Wolford under center.
This game is probably going to be determined by which team avoids turnovers. The Rams lose games when Goff turns the ball over and the same thing can be said about the Seahawks and Russell Wilson. Whichever defense can force turnovers should win this game.
Wild Card Prediction: Rams +5
This is a tough one, but I am surprised the number is so high. Seattle was just a one-point favorite two weeks ago. What has changed? I sure don’t think Goff is worth four points the way he is playing. I’ll take the Rams plus the points and if Goff somehow goes and the line moves back, I’ll just get off the game and look for a middle and take Seattle at -3 or less.
Tampa Bay Bucs at Washington Redskins (8:15 pm, NBC)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers -8
Washington Redskins +8
The Bucs are not a division winner, but many people think they have a chance to challenge Green Bay, New Orleans and Seattle for the NFC title. The Bucs may actually have the easiest matchup in the Wild Card round as they face a Washington team that made the playoffs with a 7-9 record. The Bucs have the far better offense, while Washington may have the better defense.
This game comes down to whether or not the Washington defensive line can get pressure on Tom Brady. If the Bucs can’t pressure Brady then this game will turn into a rout. Washington has Chase Young, Montez Sweat, Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen up front and we know that Brady is going to stand in the pocket. The Bucs led the NFC in big plays with 69 plays of 20 yards or more, but Washington allowed the second-fewest big plays in the league.
Washington will have to find a way to score points and based on what we saw last week with Alex Smith and the offense it seems unlikely they are going to score very many. Forget about Washington running the ball, as Tampa has the best run defense in the league. Smith can’t move much so it will be hard to get big plays against the Bucs.
Wild Card Prediction: Tampa Bay -8
Our Pick: I can’t see how Washington scores enough points to make this game competitive, so I will lay the points and take Tampa Bay.
Baltimore Ravens at Tennessee Titans (1:05 pm, ABC & ESPN)
Baltimore Ravens -3.5
Tennessee Titans +3.5
This first game on Sunday is a rematch of last year’s divisional playoffs when the Titans upset the Ravens. Baltimore will be playing with revenge and they come into this game red-hot, having won five in a row, averaging 37.2 points per game. This game is almost guaranteed to be high scoring and the total of 55 may not be nearly high enough.
Can the Tennessee Titans control Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore offense? Last year the Titans did a great job of containing Jackson but it is not going to happen on Sunday. This year’s Tennessee defense is a disgrace and they have no chance to stop Baltimore’s offense unless the Ravens turn it over.
I also have to mention Derrick Henry going against the Baltimore defense. The Titans rely heavily on Henry, as he led the league in rushing with over 2,000 yards this season. Baltimore’s rush defense has improved in recent weeks and they might be able to slow down Henry a bit on Sunday.
The Ravens will need to get pressure on Tennessee quarterback Ryan Tannehill in this contest. Baltimore has gotten good play from Yannick Ngakoue in recent weeks and he has eight sacks, four forced fumbles and 10 quarterbacks hits this year. The Titans don’t have either of their two starting tackles from last year’s matchup, as Jack Conklin is now in Cleveland, while Taylor Lewan is on IR.
Wild Card Prediction: Over 55
I lean toward Baltimore in this game, but I think the better play is the total. I can’t see anything other than an extremely high scoring game that goes well over the total of 55.
Chicago Bears at New Orleans Saints (4:40 pm, CBS)
Chicago Bears +10
New Orleans Saints -10
The New Orleans Saints couldn’t get the top seed in the NFC so they are stuck playing in the Wild Card round on Sunday as they host the Chicago Bears. The Bears are fortunate just to be in the playoffs and they are the biggest underdog on Wild Card weekend. New Orleans is hoping to have running back Alvin Kamara back on Sunday and they also should be getting Michael Thomas back from IR. These teams met earlier this season with the Saints winning in overtime.
The Bears will have to be able to run the ball effectively to have any chance in this game. David Montgomery has had a good season, but New Orleans has the fourth-ranked run defense in the league. Chicago may have a little hope because the Saints struggled in the month of December against the run.
Injuries and COVID are the key factors in this game. It looks like Kamara will return from the COVID list and Thomas will be available for this game but we won’t really know until Sunday. The Bears are hurting in the secondary with Jaylon Johnson and Buster Skrine questionable. Johnson has a shoulder injury while Skrine has a concussion. New Orleans safety Marcus Williams also has an ankle injury and he is questionable.
Wild Card Prediction:
This is a tough game to call, as I lean toward the Bears in this game because of the high pointspread, but do I really trust Mitchell Trubisky to win the game throwing the ball? I slightly lean toward Chicago, but it all comes down to the injured players for both teams, so monitor who is in and out of the lineup before making your bet on Sunday.
Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers (8:15 pm, NBC)
Cleveland Browns +5
Pittsburgh Steelers -5
These teams met last week with the Steelers resting some of their starters including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Pittsburgh still almost won. This time around the Browns are dealing with a COVID outbreak and there is a chance this game might be postponed. The Browns will not have head coach Kevin Stefanski and who knows how many others for this game on Sunday. The Steelers are just a 5-point favorite, but that number should go higher.
The Steelers have struggled to run the ball for much of the season so this game comes down to how much success Roethlisberger can have against the Cleveland secondary. Roethlisberger is no longer a top quarterback and his receivers lead the league in dropped passes. If Cleveland can keep Roethlisberger from making big plays this should be a low scoring game and that is Cleveland’s best chance to win.
The Browns are facing an uphill battle on Sunday. They will be without their head coach and a number of other coaches and players. It would have been hard enough to win in Pittsburgh with everyone healthy, but now there are a number of players and coaches who will miss this game. And if you are thinking that Baker Mayfield can win this game you might want to remember that quarterbacks making their first playoff start on Wild Card weekend are 9-30 since 2002.
Wild Card Prediction: Steelers -5 and Under 47
I don’t think Pittsburgh is that good, but I can’t take the Browns with all of their problems coming into this game. I will take the Steelers and also play the game under the total.