Ring in the New Year with wildcard NFL betting. We have all the wildcard matchup previews and NFL picks sorted here for your weekend betting thrills. Let's get started.
Cardinals +215 vs. Panthers -260
To look at the NFL betting line, you be mistaken about which team finished 11-5 SU and 7-8-1 SU, but that is the lay of the wildcard picture. In week 13, the Panthers were 3-8-1 SU while the Cardinals were 9-3 SU. Only for the gong-show that was the NFC South were the Panthers still on the playoff radar. And four wins down the stretch and a 7-8-1 SU record to cap the season they clinched the divisional title for the second straight season and secured the fourth seed in the playoff picture. It was slightly tougher going for the Cardinals in a competitive NFC West while riding the quarterback carousel to its limits and as expected they faltered down the stretch with a 2-2 SU record to fall behind the surging Seattle Seahawks. The upshot: each has a punter's chance to reach at least the divisional round of the playoffs, but the balance tips in favour of the Panthers considerably.
Ryan Lindley is a serious downgrade from Drew Stanton and country mile away from Carson Palmer. Since Lindley took over the starting job, the Cardinals are 0-2 SU and in very real danger of having their playoff bid nipped in the bud even before it gets off the ground. He was abysmal in his first appearance against the Seahawks. Against the Niners he put in a better effort and threw for two touchdowns but he also had three interceptions, the kind that would give a coach fits in the playoffs. But it's not just down to the quarterback dilemma in Arizona (Stanton may yet start if fit), but defensive concerns are mounting. Cards inability to stop the run over the past five weeks is a growing concern; in their last two games they allowed the Seahawks to rush for 267 yards and the Niners to 206 yards. That doesn't bode well against a Panthers side that can run with the best of them (195 rushing yards on average in the past five weeks all while going 4-1 SU).
Free NFL Picks: Panthers -260
Ravens +140 vs. Steelers -160
In 2012, the Ravens saved their best for the playoffs. Transcending a 10-6 SU season, which included a 1-4 SU record in their last five games, they surged through the playoffs from underdogs in the wildcard round all the way to Superbowl champions. Such credentials and a familiar divisional foe in the wildcard combine to make the Ravens a tempting underdog play at +140 to win straight up at Heinz Arena. Few would be surprised if the Ravens do actually pull off the upset.
Steelers, however, present a tough obstacle with home advantage. Hence, they are the correct favourites at the reasonable price of -160 NFL odds. Earlier this season, the Ravens had their wings well and truly clipped in a 43-23 loss at Heinz Arena, something Steelers' backers will hang their hat on in this game. They'd be more confident if Le'Veon Bell (knee) is cleared to play, naturally. But even without Bell, there's plenty to recommend the Steelers over the Ravens in this game. Both teams have a suspect secondary, but Big Ben can capitalise on that weakness better than Joe Flacco could. He has better receiving weapons such as Antonio Brown. Steelers are 12-4 SU in their last 16 home games with the Ravens.
Free NFL Picks: Steelers -160
Bengals +155 vs. Colts -175
After beating the Broncos in week 16 NFL betting, the Bengals were found wanting against the Steelers, their second straight big game. So much for finally turning the corner. Bengals have become known as chokers over the years, and just when it looked like they might put paid on that reputation they revert back to their old ways. That frustrating trend takes the shine off their NFL odds as the nominal +155 NFL underdogs in their wildcard date with the Colts. NFL bettors will also recall the 27-0 routing of the Bengals in Indianapolis this season as more reason to avoid the Bengals on their NFL picks. Then the historical trends that reveal a 5-0 SU record by the Colts over the Bengals at home and a 8-2 SU record overall against the Bengals, and Dalton's numbers, which are 0-3 SU in the playoffs and include just one touchdown and six interceptions. In the face of all the evidence against the Bengals, it's hard to argue the Bengals even have a punter's chance in this game. Needless to say, anything can happen. Games are played on the field and not on paper. But it would take a brave NFL bettor to shade the Bengals on their NFL picks. We're not so brave.
Free NFL Picks: Colts -175
Lions +240 vs. Cowboys -300
If there was one thing the Lions proved down the stretch, it's that they aren't serious contenders at all. Losing to the Packers was the final straw that extended the Lions' losing record against good teams on the road and Matt Stafford's personal stats against said good teams into the realm of absurd. Buck up Lions' fans, this isn't going to be an easy ride.
Once upon a time, one could always rely on Tony Romo and the Cowboys to fold like a house of cards. That doesn't seem likely this time around. Cowboys are riding a four-game winning streak into the playoffs, winning six of their last seven. They've blown opponents off the field, both home and away, down the stretch and Romo has surpassed the popular Aaron Rodgers as the hottest hand in the NFL (113.2 rating).
In the wild playoff race, it's inevitable that some NFL picks will fall flat. Lions aren't entirely without hope in this game; the Cowboys are only 4-4 SU at home this season, offering the Lions a notional shot at the upset. To capitalise on that shortcoming at AT&T Stadium, the Lions would have to put in the game of their lives. Just saying it (writing it) sounds wildly optimistic without evidence of form in recent weeks upon which to base such an NFL pick.
Free NFL Picks: Cowboys -300