There is no more petrifying idea for bettors than laying a bunch of chalk on wild-card weekend, especially in a league where underdogs covered at a 54.6% rate. But, on the flip side, if you have the guts to wager on Skyler Thompson to stay competitive against Josh Allen, you better stock up on Dramamine because you're in for a rough ride.
There just isn't an easy solution to betting these types of games, or even betting NFL playoff spreads in general. The market is a well-oiled machine, so the best advice is to use all your available options instead of feeling pigeon-holed into betting a side. There are several different ways to attack a game from a betting perspective.
In three of the six games, the favorite has soared through the key number of seven, while the Bills are closing in on 14. It's very possible all three of these teams close as double-digit home favorites. That doesn't necessarily make them a bad bet, but it might make them a scary one, depending on your tolerance for chalk.
Big favorites in this spot have been money in the bank over the last 12 games. Per VSiN, home favorites of nine or more points in the wild-card round are a perfect 12-0 ATS. Now, we know that all trends eventually come to an end. But the combination of quarterback injuries and the expansion of the playoff field makes it more likely it could continue this year.
I do believe all three favorites are the correct side. I bet two of them at better numbers than are currently available. That obviously is not very helpful to anyone looking to place a wager now. Rather than just advise you to lay a larger number at current market, I put together my best alternative bets for each game for those interested in options outside of laying the points.
Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers (-9.5)
Mother nature is making this one a little tricky, as forecasts are showing heavy rain before kickoff, but you never know if it will show up and crash the party. After all, they didn't coin the phrase "change like the weather" for nothing.
Rain or shine, it's hard to imagine this Seattle defense showing resistance to Kyle Shanahan's running game with the Seahawks' leading tackler, Jordyn Brooks, on IR. I don't think the weather will slow them down from bullying Seattle in the trenches. In their last meeting, the 49ers rushed for 170 yards and averaged 6.2 yards per play. The offense will be there as the 49ers will probably gash Seattle on the ground and continue to score, even in a scenario where they are sitting on a lead and running out the clock. The only concern with them not covering is Seattle scoring late and sneaking through the backdoor in a blowout. That's why I isolated the 49ers offense with the team total.
Best Bet: 49ers team total over 24.5 (-135)
Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills (-13)
Skyler Thompson looked like a fish out of water against the Jets' defense, and it's going to be a hundred times worse here. That's honestly not a knock on Thompson as a player, there just isn't anything Miami can do at this point to prepare him for playoff football. The speed of the game is much faster, and a quarterback's processing speed has to accelerate with it.
Buffalo didn't punt once in its playoff opener last year against New England when they embarrassed Bill Belichick's defense to the tune of 47 points. They will likely come out with a ton of emotion and intensity, making the first-half market a perfect target. At home, the Bills average 19.7 points in the first half, which should be more than enough to cover seven points against a Miami offense led by a rookie quarterback.
The Bet: First-half spread - Bills -7
Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals (-9.5)
This is Buffalo-Miami with a little more hope mixed in due to the Baltimore defense. Lamar is out, and poor Ravens fans are praying for Tyler Huntley. The good news is that Huntley is throwing at practice and has some postseason experience under his belt. The bad news is that in limited action this year he has earned almost an identical PFF player grade as Skylar Thompson (58.7-58.6).
The Ravens will go run-heavy out of necessity, but Bengals DC Lou Anarumo has proven he can shut down one-dimensional offenses. They held the Titans' Derrick Henry to 38 yards on 17 carries, and since Week 10, they ranked third in rush EPA allowed in non-garbage time situations. Lining up and running the ball at Cincinnati isn't likely going to do anything outside of giving Baltimore's punter a workout.
Joe Burrow should get favorable field position early on, allowing the Bengals plenty of scoring opportunities. Cincy dropped 24 on Baltimore's defensive starters last weekend, and averaged 19.1 first-half points at home. It's a solid bet Joe Burrow's offense can get 14 in this one.
The Bet: First-half team total - Bengals Over 13.5 (+105)
Stats provided by rbsdm (based on 90-10 WP), teamrankings, pff.com