Wildcard weekend kicks off the highly-anticipated NFL playoffs. Eight teams are set to lock horns and battle to advance into the Divisional round. Find out what NFL odds are currently trading and what NFL picks we serve up for each and every game.
Cardinals vs. Panthers -4.5
It's strange that the 11-5 SU and ATS Cardinals enter the wildcard round as the decided underdogs against the 7-8-1 SU and 8-8 ATS Panthers. That's the case across NFL betting platforms as we head into the postseason, and it's unfortunately appropriate. Simply, recent form and injury woes warrant such a negative outlook. The quarterback carousel has taken the shine off the Cardinals' chances in the postseason; hence, their underdog NFL odds.
Ryan Lindley went 0-2 SU and 1-1 ATS in his starts two starts down the stretch. Seahawks steamrolled the Cards 35-6 and prevented Lindley from throwing any touchdown passes. Against the Niners, Lindley fared slightly better in a 20-17 loss as he threw two TD passes but he was taking on a team that was out of the playoff picture. How much stock can NFL bettors put into that result is debatable. Still, a passable performance against the Niners doesn't compensate for Lindley's lack of experience at this level.
On the merit of their entire season, there's an argument about the Panthers leaving much to be desired, but the reality is the Panthers are riding impressive form into the postseason. They clinched the NFC South title behind four straight wins, all while Cam Newton's game elevated at the perfect time and the team overall improved on both sides of the ball.
Why 54% of early bets coming down the wire have gone towards the Cards as the 4.5-point road pups is beyond us. To put stock in Lindley is crazy at this time. That's why we're fading the public and shading the Panthers as the 4.5-point faves on our NFL picks.
NFL Picks: Panthers -4.5 at Pinnacle
Ravens vs. Steelers -3.0
The showdown between the Ravens and Steelers on Saturday Night Primetime football is one of the most highly anticipated clashes of wildcard week. The pair split their meetings this season, each winning lopsided games on home turf: Ravens beat the Steelers 26-6 in week 2 while Steelers returned the favour in a 43-23 win in week 9 at Heinz Arena.
As things currently stand, the Steelers have the momentum behind four straight convincing wins both SU and ATS, not to mention they clinched the division with a convincing 27-17 account over the Bengals in week 17 NFL betting. Ravens, by contrast, stuttered into the playoffs, squeaking into the last wildcard spot with a 20-10 win over the Browns, a game in which they worked harder than odds makers expected they would. Still, it's a divisional rivalry that set to kickoff wildcard week in the AFC and the upshot is a rather tight NFL betting line. The Steelers are the marginally the 3-point home chalk.
Clearly, the expectation is for a tight battle between divisional foes. There's also the fact that the Ravens are former SuperBowl champions, defying the NFL odds two years ago to navigate a successful championship run. Having proven dangerous floaters once before they could do so again. For our money, Joe Flacco has been incredibly unpredictable down the stretch though. Banking money on the chance he might turn in an MVP performance to lead the Ravens into the Divisional round seems too risky. The safer NFL pick is the tried, tested and true Big Ben, who has been playing solid, inspired football for most of the season and never more so than in the month of December. Take the Steelers as the reasonable 3-point favourites on your NFL picks.
NFL Picks: Steelers -3.0 at 5Dimes
Bengals vs. Colts -4.0
Strangely, the NFL betting public is divided on this game with 51% of early money coming down the wire going to the Colts. How is this the toughest games to handicap in wildcard week? On one hand, the Bengals claim an awful record in the postseason and in big stake games with Andy Dalton. On the other hand, the Colts decimated the Bengals 27-0 in week 7 NFL betting, a memory that can't be overlooked. Surely that's the case made for a bet on the Colts as the 4-point home chalk.
Andy Dalton and the Bengals reach their fourth straight postseason. To date, they are an unconvincing 0-3 SU in the playoffs and in very real danger of going 0-4 on Sunday. This notion is not just down to the inconsistency of Dalton and his perceived inability to rise to the occasion in big games, but also down to the fact that A.J. Green suffered a concussion against the Steelers and may not be fit for this game. Green is Dalton's favourite target without which he's seriously ineffective.
A lot is being made of the Bengals' win over the Broncos a fortnight ago as a turning point. Winning a big game in the regular season and winning one in the sudden death knockouts are two different things, and not until Dalton proves he's worth his money would we consider backing him. In a quarterback centric sport, Andrew Luck is a much better option on your NFL picks in a high stakes game. Last season, Luck rallied the Colts to beat the Chiefs, erasing a 28-point deficit in the second largest playoff comeback in history. That's something to bank on your NFL picks.
NFL Picks: Colts -4.0 at The Greek
Lions vs. Cowboys -7.0
Week 17 NFL betting proved a double-edged sword for the Detroit Lions as not only did they lose their last game of the season at Lambeau but they also left the NFC North title there for the Packers to hoist. The upshot, the Detroit Lions are relegated to the wildcard week and a date with the frighteningly hot Dallas Cowboys, who are riding a four-game winning streak into the playoffs, including a 44-17 win over the Redskins in week 17 NFL betting.
On balance, this is the largest betting spread on the NFL odds board for wildcard week. As it stands, 76% of public money is invested in the Cowboys to come through as the 7-point favourites. Underscoring the trend in this game is the quarterback balance: Matt Stafford vs. Tony Romo.
Stafford is highly inconsistent and unreliable, if how the Lions rattled down the stretch is anything to go by. Stafford barely led the Lions to a victory over the Bears a fortnight ago, and he was wholly off colour and inconsistent against the Packers in week 17 NFL betting. What's more, Stafford's numbers are discouraging, not unlike Andy Dalton: he is 0-16 SU against winning teams on the road. And the Lions have lost nine straight road games in the playoffs.
Tony Romo, who used to be synonymous with late season collapses, has seemingly nipped that awful trend in the bud this season behind his best December ever. He's playing inspired football and the Cowboys et al have elevated their game behind him. Cowboys decimated the Bears, Eagles, Colts and Redskins behind virtuoso performances from Romo and they outscored opponents 165-to-79 or in other words scoring 41.25 points per game and conceding just 19.75 points per game. Matthew Stafford and the Lions would have to have an extraordinary day to stop the Cowboys juggernaut.
NFL Picks: Cowboys -7.0 at Bookmaker