NFL Picks

Free NFL Bets for the Wild Card Playoff Round

Deebo Samuel

NFL Bets and Teaser Picks

Welcome to the best time of the year: NFL Playoff season. The NFL’s 14 best – well, 13 best teams and the Steelers – will get to work and battle until we crown a Super Bowl champion in February. Enjoy the next month, folks, because it’s going to fly right on by.

For those who followed my best bet series last year, we switched up the format in the playoffs and we’re going to do the same thing in 2022. I’ll preview each game on the slate, let you know if I bet it and what I bet. If I don’t have a bet, I’ll provide which way I’m leaning. Important distinction: leans are not official bets; official bets will be made abundantly clear.

We finished off the regular season on a high note, sweeping the card in Week 18 to bring our season record to a shiny 31-24 (56.4%), and +5.48 units. Let’s continue our strong handicapping into the playoffs, and remember our staff’s picks are right here.

Raiders at Bengals (-O/U 49)

We kick off the 2021-22 postseason with possibly the toughest game to bet on the board. There are plenty of reasons why the Bengals can cover. Starting with the obvious: Joe Burrow and his weapons. But looking deeper, the Raiders played the final game of the NFL’s regular-season until the last possible second of overtime, and now they’ve got to hit the road and play the first game of the entire postseason. They’re also a west coast, desert, dome team tasked with battling the elements in blustery Cincinnati. Neither of those tasks are easy ones.

But on the flip side, the Bengals took last week off. The Raiders were fighting for their lives, and they’re already in playoff mode. How long is it going to take for the Bengals to kick it back into gear? If it’s not abundantly clear, I don’t have a bet on the side here, but I do like the under for a few reasons, some of which I’ve already touched on.

Firstly, these two teams played each other just before Thanksgiving and tallied 45 points – under. Secondly, neither quarterback nor coach has played or coached a playoff game yet – experience matters. Thirdly, it’s going to be cold and possibly snowy, and I’m not sure if the Raiders are ready for that. And lastly, like I mentioned, the Bengals are going to need a couple of drives to wake up from having last week “off”. 

Unders are historically profitable in the opening round of the playoffs, as the books know an influx of casual bettors are going to play. And casual bettors tend to play overs. That being said, overs are usually inflated, and this one feels inflated to a key number because of an overreaction to last week. Las Vegas is only averaging 16.0 points per game since December began, and while Cincinnati is averaging 25.2 per game in the same time frame, it’s still more than a touchdown below the listed total.

BET: Under 49 (-110)

 

Patriots @ Bills (-4, O/U 46)

And so they meet again, for the third time. This is another tough one to handicap, especially because the first regular-season meeting between these two teams was played basically in a hurricane. But let’s take a look at each team’s recent schedule.

Buffalo closed out the year winning four in a row after losing four of six. However, three of the teams they beat were the awful Panthers, Falcons, and Jets. The other was coincidentally these Patriots. New England on the other hand has limped to the finish. They won just one of their final four games against Jacksonville, but their three losses came against formidable foes: Indianapolis, Buffalo, and Miami. It’s really difficult to tell if the Bills are overvalued because they beat up on a cupcake schedule, or if the Patriots are undervalued because they lost to a tough schedule.

What I can say is this game will just be a lean – no official play. But I think the total feels too low. I mentioned in the previous handicap that totals are inflated and unders are profitable in the opening round – all true. But the score from the first game is weighing this total down; remember it was played in insane wind. The second meeting, a 33-21 victory for the Bills, is more indicative of how I think this game will go in terms of pace. It’ll be cold, but both teams are used to that. What helps the over here is the wind will be minimal. In terms of the sides, there’s no denying Buffalo is the more talented team on paper, but games aren’t played on paper, especially when Bill Belichick is involved.

LEAN: Bills -4, Over 46

 

(7) Eagles @ (2) Buccaneers (-8.5, O/U 46)

Jalen Hurts vs. Tom Brady. Not exactly a legendary matchup, but one we shouldn’t discount. Remember last year, it was Taylor Heinicke vs. Tom Brady and the Football Team gave the Buccaneers their toughest test of the playoffs, including the Super Bowl.

That being said, I can’t fathom the Bucs losing this one. The Eagles played six of the 13 other playoff teams this year and went 0-6 straight up and 1-5 against the spread. Take nothing away from Philly, they played who the schedule told them to, but they’re here because they took care of business against the league’s basement. Tampa Bay is in the league’s penthouse.

However, I can’t take Tampa Bay and lay over a touchdown in a playoff game, despite Tom Brady’s playoff prowess. Why? They just lost Chris Godwin a few weeks ago, they lost Antonio Brown as well, and they’ve got players like Lavonte David and Leonard Fournette who are seeing their first game action since the 9-0 Saints disaster. I think the Buccaneers know unless something goes very wrong, they’ll win this game, so they’re not going to try anything that would give Philly a big momentum swing. Instead, they’ll play methodically on offense and do what they do best on defense: stop the run. Coincidentally the driver of the Eagles’ offense. It’s a bad matchup for the Eagles.

As I said, I can’t lay -8.5 given the circumstances, and the Buccaneers are the picture-perfect teaser leg. But there’s nobody to tease them with. So we’re going to have to get creative, and you’re going to have to lay some juice. Here’s how:

BET: Two-Team Teaser – Buccaneers -2.5 / Chiefs 1H -1.5 (-145)

 

49ers @ Cowboys (-3.5, O/U 51)

Let me be clear from the start: only 25% of books still have +3.5 posted. The rest have moved it down to 49ers +3. This is not a play for me at +3; it’s only a play at +3.5 down to -125.

That half-point hook is essential. I like the Niners here, and I even put a small moneyline wager on them earlier in the week. San Francisco may have a leaky secondary, but the Cowboys do not look right since Dak Prescott hurt his calf halfway through the season, and the 49ers are red-hot. In the final 10 games of the season, Dallas is 6-4 which is obviously good, but let’s dig deeper. They lost to Denver, they scored nine points against the Chiefs, they scored 21 points against the horrendous Giants, and sure they scored 50-plus in two of the last three weeks, but the first time was against a Washington team who brawled on the sidelines and the second time was against an Eagles team who was already locked into a Wild Card spot. Don’t be fooled.

https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1481323841938808833?s=20

San Francisco is going to be a nightmare for this Cowboys defense who has certainly overperformed. Micah Parsons has been the key driver, but the way the 49ers line up really negates a lot of what he does well – specifically how they use Deebo Samuel and George Kittle. This team finished the year 7-2, and they’ve been in playoff mode for weeks now. Every game has essentially been life or death. The Cowboys – not so much. They’ve had the division sewn up officially for a few weeks, and quite honestly the NFC East was decided months ago. Plus, the San Francisco coaching staff is far superior to Dallas. Both Cowboys coordinators are interviewing for other jobs, too.

BET: 49ers +3.5 (-125)

 

Steelers @ Chiefs (-12.5, O/U 46.5)

I joked in the open that this playoff field holds the 13 best teams and the Steelers, but I’m actually sort of serious. The Steelers are ranked 20th in my power rankings, but here they are. Even if Ben Roethlisberger wishes he was already retired and claims Pittsburgh has no chance, this game still has to be played.

The Chiefs are definitely banged up. Both Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Tyreek Hill were limited in practice on Thursday which isn’t great news. However, I expect to see Hill; CEH I’m not so confident in. Regardless of who plays and who doesn’t, the Chiefs are going to win this game. The Steelers really do one thing well: get after the passer. And the Chiefs not only have a strong and youthful offensive line, but they also have a quarterback who is an absolute master at not getting hit, and a head coach who can teach a master class in getting the ball into his playmakers hands to negate the pass rush.

https://twitter.com/NFLonCBS/status/1481719448579067906?s=20

But how do we bet a game that’s nearly a two-touchdown spread, or a total where we honestly have no idea what to expect from Pittsburgh’s offense? Well, I’ve already given you the creative teaser with the Chiefs -1.5 in the first half paired with the Buccaneers -2.5 for the game. But I have another bet here, and it’s the Chiefs -7 in the first half. Kansas City can score on anyone, but it’s Pittsburgh’s lack of scoring that makes this a great bet. In their last eight games, they’ve gone into the half with three or fewer points six times. They just don’t start games with any sort of rhythm.

This is important – only FanDuel has -7 left, but it’s -130. Do not play this line at -7.5, the hook is vital.

BET: Chiefs 1H -7 (-130)

 

Cardinals @ Rams

I’m not a believer in the Rams. Sure, the Cardinals have a coach who can be a bit of a bonehead at times, and they’ll be without DeAndre Hopkins again, but they’re 5-2 both straight up and against the spread against playoff teams. Los Angeles is 2-5 straight up and against the spread against playoff teams. Arizona is battle-tested.

This game will be in LA, but does that even matter? Did you watch last week’s game against the 49ers? That stadium was 60% San Franciscans. Should we expect a few more Rams fans in this matchup because it’s the playoffs? Sure, but Arizona is just a short drive away. Cardinals fans will be there and they will be loud. I also don’t like what I’ve seen from Matthew Stafford the last few weeks. He hasn’t just looked off, he’s looked bad.

All that being said, I’m not comfortable putting my money on Kliff Kingsbury’s shoulders, especially without DeAndre Hopkins. The Rams defense is still good, and while my opinion for years has been that Sean McVay is overrated, he’s still better than Kingsbury. It’s just a lean from me for now.

LEAN: Cardinals +4

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