NFL Picks

NFL Best Bets: Wildcard Weekend

Isiah Pacheco


We’ve made it to the NFL playoffs after a long, and exciting, regular season. Our best bets finished 28-25-2 (52.8%), which is slightly profitable, so we’ll take it. Last year, we managed to pick almost 60% correctly against the spread, but as nice as that was, it’s unrealistic to expect that kind of success long-term when betting against the sportsbooks. I did much better-picking game straight up this season, finishing first in Fantasy Nerd’s NFL Pick’em Accuracy competition for the second year in a row. 

This year, road favorites have covered at the highest rate, 54.5%. Home underdogs, by extension, have only covered 45.5%. Road underdogs have the second lowest cover rate at 48.1%. So, naturally, I want to bet road favorites and avoid underdogs, right? Well, not exactly. If it were as easy as betting the trends each week, we would all be rich! There are two road favorites this week and, while I think the Browns -2.5 is spot on, I’m a little perplexed at the Eagles -3. 

Weather will have a big impact on two games this week and I think it can be used to exploit the lines. Severe weather generally means more rushing, which obviously benefits the team with a better ground game. It also means lower scores, which favors the underdog. With only six games this weekend, it’s hard to pick three to bet, so I’m looking for any edge I can find.

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Chiefs -4.5 vs Dolphins

It’s going to be a chilly one in Kansas City Saturday night with a game time temperature forecasted to be five degrees. With the windchill, it could get down to -30 degrees! There’s also the possibility of snow. This is bad news for Miami, who have lost 10 straight games when the temperature is 40 degrees or below. However, if the weather conditions make it difficult to throw the ball, that could be advantageous to the Dolphins, who have the superior run game. 

It’s difficult to discount the effect the weather could have on this game. On one hand, Miami has the top offense in the league, but that could be negated due to the condition of the field. On the other hand, the Dolphins defense is pretty banged up, so it could be a blessing in disguise if they Chiefs are unable to throw the ball. So I think you have to approach this as a net negative for both teams and adjust projections, accordingly. Vegas clearly has adjusted them down for Miami. The spread has risen a full point toward Kansas City. It would be a no-brainer to pick the Dolphins at -4.5 in normal conditions, but it makes sense given the circumstances. 

Look, Tua Tagovailoa struggles on the road. He has only 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions in eight road games this season. And Miami is playing on a short week, while the Chiefs were able to rest their starters last week. On top of that, the Dolphins faded a bit down the stretch, losing three of their last five games. I want to pick them here, I really do. All my data suggests the line is too high. But I’m caving. I think the weather and Patrick Mahomes will be too much in a playoff game. 

Steelers +10 at Bills

The resilient Steelers won three in a row to end the regular season and reached the postseason for the 11th time under Mike Tomlin. But, they’re not the only team that got hot at the right time. The Bills won five in a row to secure the second seed in the AFC and at least two home games in the playoffs. Not all win streaks are created equal, and Buffalo’s was certainly more impressive, securing wins against the Chiefs, Cowboys, and Dolphins in those five games. 

Pittsburgh will be without star linebacker T.J. Watt. He suffered a Grade 2 sprained MCL in last week’s game against the Ravens. This is a huge blow to the defense and the Steelers’ chances of winning the game. They have a 1-10 record when Watt does not play compared to a winning percentage of 67.3% when he does play a full game. 

The Bills have their own injury concerns. Wide receiver Gabe Davis is out, while cornerback Rasul Douglas and linebacker Tyrel Dotson are true game-time decisions. However, Buffalo should still be able to put a lot of pressure on Mason Rudolph and disrupt the Pittsburgh’s recent passing game resurgence. 

Extreme winds are expected and possible snow. This helps Pittsburgh, who has a great running game and they might not have to stop Josh Allen through the air, which would be huge with T.J. Watt out. This game has the biggest spread of the week at -10, and also the lowest total, 35.5. I think both of those things happening are pretty slim, but if I had to pick on, I would bet on the under. 

Buffalo is 7-10 against the spread this season, the worst record of any playoff team. The line has moved down half a point since opening, probably indicating the line is still a little too high. I think the Bills will win, but I can’t see them beating the Steelers by double-digits. 

Buccaneers +3 vs Eagles

The Eagles catch a break by playing Monday night and getting an extra day of rest for Jalen Hurts, A. J. Brown, and DeVonta Smith. Tampa Bay, on the other hand, comes in as one of the healthiest teams in the playoffs. These two teams finished the season going opposite directions. Philadelphia lost five of this final six games while the Buccaneers won five of their last six. Oddly enough, the oddsmakers still have the Eagles as a three point favorite on the road. I think this has more to do with public perception than what we’ve seen on the field. Interestingly, while the public is placing two-thirds of the bets on Philly, only 39% of the cash is going towards them, suggesting that the sharp bettors are favoring Tampa Bay. 

While I think the Eagles are the better team, I don’t think we can ignore the last five weeks. The Bucs have played like a top 10 team over that span. Philadelphia’s defense is already exploitable, and with an offense that has real injuries concerns for this game, I think Tampa will keep this game within three and has a good chance to pull off an upset.

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