This past Sunday marked the end of the NFL regular season ahead of this year’s quest for Super Bowl glory in Atlanta the first Sunday in February. Two NFC teams that were on the sidelines for last year’s playoffs face off against one another this Saturday night in the Wild Card Round with Seattle going on the road to take on Dallas.
The four wild cards games in the opening round of the NFL postseason have a gained a reputation for wild finishes over the years and a lean towards straight-up upsets by hungry road underdogs. While the top two teams in each conference enjoy a week off, the other eight playoffs teams will be battling it out for a spot in the Divisional Round.
I came up short on Christmas Day in last week’s top underdog bet for Ask the Bookie when Oklahoma City came up four points short against Houston as a 2.5-point road underdog in that NBA matchup. This week, I am turning to the NFL for my top-valued dog with quite a bit of value in the same opening number.
Top Underdog Bet- Take Seattle +2.5 against Dallas (now moved to +1)
The Seahawks return to the playoffs for the first time since 2016 when they lost in the Divisional Round. They went 10-6 straight-up this time around with a 9-5-2 record against the spread. They will face the 10-6 Dallas Cowboys in a slated 8:15 p.m. start on FOX from AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
The opening line for this NFC clash has the Cowboys favored by 2.5 points at home with the total set at 42 points. Seattle comes into this game with six SU victories in its last seven games while going 4-2-1 ATS. It was an even 4-4 SU on the road with a 4-3-1 record ATS. However, the betting trend that really caught my eye was a 5-1-1 record ATS when closing as an underdog.
Dallas won the NFC East Division title with 10 wins and its overall record ATS was 9-6-1. This is another team that picked up the pace over the second half of its schedule at 7-1 SU (6-1-1 ATS) in its last eight games. The Dallas Cowboys needed a late score to get past the New York Giants 36-35 in its regular season finale with most of their starters still in the lineup. The Cowboys are 5-2-1 ATS at home this season, but an even 3-3-1 ATS when closing as favorites.
These two teams met in Week 3 and Seattle came away with a 24-13 victory at home closing as a one-point favorite. The total stayed UNDER 40 points in that game and my early lean is the total staying UNDER the current 42-point line this time around.
Seattle and Dallas basically mirror one another almost across the board. They both have mobile quarterbacks that can make some big plays with their arm and their legs. Each offense relies heavily on running the ball to move the chains. Seattle uses a running back by committee approach headed by Chris Carson. The Cowboys let Ezekiel Elliott handle most of the heavy lifting as the top NFL back in total rushing yards this season (1,434).
With identical 10-win records, a great deal of the credit for each team’s success should go to the defense. Seattle gave up an average of 21.7 points per game and Dallas was slightly better with a points-allowed average of 20.3. This should keep the scoring rather low on Saturday night.
Some of the more recent betting trends in this matchup tend to favor Seattle at 4-1 ATS in its last five Wild Card playoff games and 6-2-1 ATS in its last nine conference games. The Cowboys are 3-8 ATS in their last 11 games in the postseason and they fall to 1-4 ATS in their last five playoff games at home.
This should remain a close, hard-fought battle right through the end of the fourth quarter, but Seattle’s edge in the postseason prevails with a SU win.