Welcome to Wildcard Week! We are fresh off a four-team Money Line (+140) parlay hit from Week 17, poised to do it again. We also have some appealing playoffs futures to consider. It’s the best time of the year for the NFL, so get your bets in before Saturday’s kickoff.
Steelers -265, Buccaneers -385, Saints -500 (Three-team Parlay: +109)
This is another “safe” parlay at +109, but if you want to get risky with it, you can add Titans at +150 to make it a saucy +449. I like this parlay for a few basic reasons and a couple more advanced ones.
For one basic reason, we are betting against three highly questionable quarterbacks. Sure, you can say Baker is probably playing the best among the three, but Baker will be missing a key offensive lineman, he’s facing a ferocious pass rush, an opportunistic secondary, and he’s been horrible under pressure this season.
Alex Smith is literally on his last leg. Terry McLaurin still isn’t 100%, and the Bucs are likely going to have a field day with Smith. Last, we have Trubisky going against the Bears. I don’t even need to say anything else on that. The Saints are a great defense, disciplined and featuring a strong pass rush.
The more advanced reasons are simply matchup-based. None of the teams we picked against have offenses capable of exploiting the defenses they’ll be facing, except maybe the Browns. However, with Bitonio out at guard, and the head coach gone, don’t hold your breath for a big offensive output from Cleveland.
Okay, there are red flags for each of these games. The first is for the Buccaneers. As we know, the way to ruin the Bucs on offense is to pressure Brady. Washington is exceptional at causing chaos in the backfield, so it’s a legitimate concern.
The reason we like the Bucs here is the complete lack of potency from Washington on offense. The Bucs feature a strong rush defense and a good pass rush, so we need not be so concerned.
For the Steelers, the concern is their rushing defense and their lack of a rushing offense. Even though the Steelers have proved they can win a lot with the short passing game, they’ve also shown they can be stagnant and end up with quick three and outs (subsequently tiring out their own defense from time spent on the field).
The loss of Bitonio will hurt the Browns. Hopefully, that will be enough for the Steelers to keep the rush in check while still pressuring Baker. The Steelers game is the one I’m most concerned about this week for the parlay.
The Saints worry me the least of the three. It’s not that the Bears don’t concern me overall. It’s more about the possibility of the Bears’ defense zeroing-in on Alvin Kamara. Kamara is the best thing going for the Saints, but slowing him would result in the Saints forcing the ball downfield, which seems like it could be an issue for old Drew Brees.
Overall, I think the Saints are just too well-rounded and should take care of business.
Best Value Playoff Specials
I always like these. I don’t necessarily like the straight playoff futures, because you’ll usually get better odds just betting the team moneyline all the way through. However, the specific NFL Championship matchups are my favorite. Let’s take a gander at some good value picks for these playoffs.
NFL Championship “Winning Conference” (AFC -150)
Think about this one rationally. If the Bills or Chiefs are representing the conference in the championship game, they’ll be at least -150 favorites (typically a -3 spread). There’s a chance the Packers could be a pick-em against the Bills, but if the Bills take out the Chiefs en route to the championship, they’ll be the far more impressive team from a “what have you done for me lately” standpoint.
Perhaps the biggest reason this bet is appealing to me is the road map for both Buffalo and Tampa Bay. If Tampa can get by Washington, they’ll face the Packers, who they manhandled earlier in the season. If the Bills get by the Colts, they’ll face Pittsburgh in all likelihood.
The Bills handled the Steelers routinely, late in the season. If the Chiefs make it, they’ll at least be three to four-point favorites against the Packers, and five-plus to anyone else. Whoever comes out of the AFC is going to be battle-tested and ready for the big one.
NFL Championship “Exact SB Outcome” (Bills to beat Buccaneers +3500)
I absolutely love this one, because you’ll get tremendous value from a hedge opportunity before the championship game. If you run the numbers out, you’ll get similar odds if everything were to go chalk. However, if there are one or two upsets in there (altering their opponents), this turns into a great value bet.
As we mentioned in the last section, both these teams have a favorable road map after Wildcard Week. Ideally, the Buccaneers would prefer the Saints lose either this round to the Bears or the next round to the Seahawks (in all likelihood).
The prospect of facing the Saints in the NFC title game wouldn’t be good for them. Until then, handling their business against Washington would set them up nicely against Green Bay, who they slaughtered earlier in the season. For Buffalo, it’s a little less risky. If the Bills get by the Colts this weekend, they’ll have a very fine re-match scheduled against the Steelers in the divisional round.
After that, a date with the Chiefs seems imminent. In their first meeting, the Bills were able to quell the Chiefs offense, but the awful weather prevented the Bills from really taking advantage through the air. The Chiefs really took advantage of the Bills’ poor run defense with Clyde Edwards-Helaire the first time, but there’s a chance Edwards-Helaire won’t be able to play in the potential re-match.