The quest to win this season’s NFL Super Bowl gets underway on Saturday, Jan. 4 with the first two games in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs. Two division winners from each conference will faceoff against the two wild card teams for a chance to advance to the following weekend’s Divisional Round.
The wild card playoffs can be wild for a number of reasons. Sometimes the teams matchup closely and many times this game is a rematch from a previous meeting in the regular season. You can have lopsided spreads and home underdogs in this opening round given the diversity of teams.
Turning to this season’s wild card games, the AFC will be in the spotlight on Saturday with the two games in the NFC scheduled for Sunday, and have already been heavily wagered at America’s Bookie. For the first time in years, the New England Patriots will have to play a wild card game as the No. 3 seed in the AFC. They will host the Tennessee Titans. The New Orleans Saints will have a chance to avenge a bitter last-second playoff loss in 2017 to the Minnesota Vikings in their opening round game this year.
In the other two games, the Buffalo Bills are back in the playoffs for the second time in three seasons and they will be on the road against the AFC South Champion Houston Texans. The Wild Card Round wraps up late Sunday afternoon with a West Coast/ East Coast battle between birds of prey with the Seattle Seahawks making the trip east to face the banged up Philadelphia Eagles.
Going chalk in these games would have Houston moving on as a three-point home favorite and New England covering the 5.5-point spread in Foxborough. The Saints would cover as the heaviest favorites posted by top online sportsbooks at eight points and Seattle would come through as the lone road favorite at 1.5 points.
The two AFC matchups could be defensive battles with the total set at 41 for the Bills and Texans’ game followed by a 43-point line for the Titans and the Patriots. The total line for the Vikings at Saints’ tilt is 47 and it has opened at 46 points for the Seahawks at Eagles’ game.
The two AFC games will be the first meeting between the two teams this season. Buffalo is 6-1 ATS in its last seven games against the AFC South but it is 1-4 SU in its last five games against Houston. The Patriots have won seven of their last eight games against Tennessee SU with a 5-1 record ATS in the last six meetings.
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Minnesota started the preseason with a 34-25 win against New Orleans as a three-point road underdog. In past meetings that did count, the Saints are 5-2 SU in the last seven games and 4-1 ATS in the last five matchups. Seattle will be making its second trip to Philadelphia this season after beating the Eagles 17-9 on Nov. 24 as a two-point road favorite. Over the years, the Seahawks are a perfect 5-0 both SU and ATS in their last five games against the Eagles.
At a glance, Buffalo could be a value pick as the better all-around team. Now that the playoffs are officially underway, how wise would it be to bet against New England right now. The Saints do have a long memory facing a Vikings’ team with Kirk Cousins at quarterback and we may not know who is playing for the Eagles but you know they are not going down without a fight. The UNDER could be the way to go in that one.