The stakes are now even higher for our writers Shane Jackson and Gabriel Santiago. After a regular season that saw its fair share of wins and losses, these two are ready to test their skill set by making picks for the postseason. And that starts with a Super Wild Card weekend that presents plenty of value if you look closely enough.
As always, don’t be afraid to do your own research and place the bets that you feel comfortable putting your money on. As long as you place those wagers with WynnBET— we all can win together!
(All odds as of Thursday, Jan. 13)
Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams (-4)
Despite splitting the 2021 season series, Pro Football Focus does not have these two sides ranked all that close together—overall, the Rams are slotted at 5th and the Cardinals, 12th. For me, it’s Arizona’s trajectory this year that is concerning. Through the season’s first seven weeks, the Cardinals looked like the best team in the NFL. After suffering significant injuries to Kyler Murray, J.J. Watt, and DeAndre Hopkins, the team has noticeably slowed productivity. Murray has been back, and Watt has recently come off the IR. Hopkins may be able to rejoin the team if Arizona reaches the conference championship, but can they get over the hump until then?
Although neither quarterback here has won a playoff game in their career, I have more faith in the veteran Matthew Stafford. We’ve seen his turnovers rise in recent weeks, but according to PFF, he is still orchestrating the 5th best offense in the NFL. Unlike the Cardinals, the Rams will have their feature pass catcher in Cooper Kupp, who is fresh off winning the NFL’s receiving triple-crown. Additionally, RB Cam Akers has miraculously returned from the IR and can offer a dynamic change of pace for Los Angeles. Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has not been targeted a ton, but he has done well to find the end zone five times in eight games as a Ram, catching a pass in every contest.
Both of these NFC West squads bolster strong defenses, but PFF has had L.A.’s D anchored first in the NFL for a few weeks now. With the destructive Aaron Donald as their leader, only five teams have allowed less rushing yards than the Rams’ defense. On the outside, all-pro CB Jalen Ramsey does well to inflict physicality on opposing receivers, as there is no matchup in the league that he is afraid of. Overall, I see this unit causing fits for an Arizona team that has only scored 21.2 pts/g through the final five weeks of the regular season (going 1-4 along the way). Come Monday night, I see the Rams’ defense as the difference maker.
On Thursday, our lines reflect Los Angeles laying four points at home. This is a wager I can feel confident about. The Rams were 5-3 at home this season, with one of those losses coming in Week 4 to that scalding-hot Cardinals team. However, I don’t see Arizona winning twice at SoFi Stadium this season, especially in their current state (when these sides last met in Week 14, the Rams won by seven). With the Los Angeles ML currently priced at -200, I’d rather lay the four points in a game that should serve as Stafford’s first NFL postseason win.
— Gabriel Santiago
New England Patriots (+4) at Buffalo Bills
It is hard for me to feel too confident about any spread picks this weekend, but I’ll take the points with the Patriots in the rubber match against the Buffalo Bills. Based on how the regular season went, it is hard to argue with taking whatever team ended up being the underdog.
The Patriots covered and won outright (14-10) as a 3-point underdog during a frigid and windy matchup in Buffalo during Week 13. A few weeks later, the Bills secured a 33-21 victory as an underdog in their rematch with the Patriots.
Underdogs tend to have a lot of success during Wild Card weekend as well. According to a tweet via Joe Osborne of OddsShark, underdogs are 15-7 against the spread with a 10-12 outright record over the last five years.
Now add in the fact that the Bills and Patriots are all-too familiar with each other, and points might be hard to come by with this meeting slated to be another cold one in Buffalo. All of that leads me to being content with taking the points ahead of Saturday’s matchup.
— Shane Jackson
San Francisco 49ers (+135) at Dallas Cowboys
It took a ridiculous second half comeback performance in the final game of the season, but the 49ers now have a ticket to the dance (if you read my Super Bowl futures piece last week, you know I was sweating). They will be tasked with travelling to Dallas where they’ll face the best Cowboy team of the Dak Prescott-era. Even if I were not a 49er fan, I would be absolutely enthralled for this game—San Francisco at Dallas has the potential to be the marquee contest of the weekend. Through all the postseason history between these two franchises, expect the next chapter of this rivalry to deliver.
For what it’s worth, the 49ers and Cowboys have met seven times in the playoffs, with Dallas winning five of them. Their most recent postseason meeting was the 1994 NFC Championship game where S.F. won 38-28, and eventually went on to beat the Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX.
Despite displaying underdog odds, I genuinely think this is a favorable matchup for San Francisco. I respect that Dallas has forced more turnovers than any other defense in the NFL, but they are also allowing 5.5 yards per play (which leaves them within the worst 10 defenses). This may play right into the 49ers’ offense—through creative playcalling and a dynamic offensive cast, San Francisco is averaging the most yards per play in the league (6.1). If the 49ers get their ground game churning early, it will be a long day for Dallas. Keep an eye on LT Trent Williams’ health status; he’s currently questionable with an elbow injury. If he plays Sunday, even likely-DROY Micah Parsons will have trouble shedding blocks from him, Kittle, and fullback Juszczyk.
At the beginning of the season, it was actually the Dallas offense that was turning heads. Through their first seven games, the Cowboys went 6-1 while scoring 32.1 pts/g. Since then, the Cowboys have dealt with injuries on offense, most notably to QB Dak Prescott. Prescott was in the MVP conversation for the first half of the year, but has seen his play deteriorate—simply put, he looks physically uncomfortable. One can make the same argument for 49er signal caller Jimmy Garoppolo, but some confidence has been restored after Garoppolo threw for 300+ yards against the Rams’ No. 1 defense last week (with majority of production coming in the second half). But also like Jimmy G., Dak has a litany of playmakers to utilize. However, Dallas is best when they lean on Elliott, Pollard and the run-game. With that said, I just don’t see San Francisco’s defensive-front allowing them to do that.
The 49ers are still showing a +135 ML price on Thursday. To me, this has wonderful value. After a few impressive victories down the stretch (vs. Bengals, Texans w/ Trey Lance, Rams) San Francisco looks like the more confident team at the moment. S.F. is nearing full strength at the right time, and that makes them incredibly hard to gameplan for. I like the 49ers to control the clock with their physical style of play, ultimately winning outright in Dallas.
— Gabriel Santiago
Arizona Cardinals (+165) at Los Angeles Rams
Gabe, a San Francisco fan, took arguably the best moneyline underdog this weekend, so I guess I’ll settle for the finale of Super Wild Card weekend. The Cardinals were actually the only road team I predicted to win outright this weekend in our postseason preview, which of course means I actually believe this could happen.
Picking against quarterbacks in their first playoff start tends to be a smart play — more on that later. But if there is one first-timer I want to bet on it is Kyler Murray. According to Pro Football Focus, the talented third-year quarterback produced an overall grade of 84.0 (No. 7 overall) and posted a big-time throw percentage of 7.12%.
I also don’t really need an excuse to fade Matthew Stafford, who has underwhelmed in his first season with the Rams. Stafford led the league with 17 interceptions thrown, four of which were taken to the house! Nobody will face more pressure than Stafford this weekend, as he is 0-3 in the postseason (all with the Lions) while throwing four touchdowns and three interceptions in those contests.
Football is a complicated sport, and it is never as easy as picking the better quarterback. But I’m choosing to back the more talented QB for my upset of the week.
— Shane Jackson
Totals to consider
New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills UNDER 44
Here we have two tough division rivals meeting each other for the third time this season (make that the third time in the last seven weeks, actually). The Pats and Bills both play a physical brand of football, and that will be paramount given Saturday night’s forecast in Buffalo. Much like the first meeting of the season between these two, Orchard Park will be frigidly windy (we’re talking single-digit, possibly sub-zero temperatures). We all remember how that game went—New England ran to a 14-10 victory while allowing Mac Jones to pass it only three times.
Admittedly, I don’t have a solid feel on who will emerge victorious in this rubber match, but I feel pretty confident that points will be at a premium. Also, I have never suited up for a football game in weather that cold, but I can imagine how much it slows down the human body. Thankfully, I’m coming into this game with a hot streak on totals, and I have no problem taking the under here. Just like Week 13 in Buffalo, I see both sides staying under 20 points. Oh, and that guy Bill Belichick is coaching in this game—I hear he’s a bit of a defensive wiz …
— Gabriel Santiago
Las Vegas Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals UNDER 49
When the lines first dropped, I wrote about locking in the Raiders +6.5 because it was the side I liked the most. That line has dropped to 5.5 points, which is probably my cutoff if you want to still back the Raiders. Because there isn’t as much value in the spread anymore, the real bet to make for this game is on the total.
It is no secret that quarterbacks making their first-ever start in the postseason, specifically rookie signal callers, have struggled. The last time a rookie quarterback won a playoff start was Russell Wilson in 2012. Dating back to 2002, quarterbacks are 16-36 in their first postseason start. And their statistical production tends to take a dip as well.
Well, the first game of Super Wild Card Weekend features two such quarterbacks with Derek Carr squaring off against Joe Burrow. Both teams have conservative coaches, and this game will be played in 30-degree weather, so I wouldn’t be surprised if running backs Joe Mixon and Josh Jacobs shoulder the load for their respective teams.
PFF makes this total 48, giving the under a 51.7% chance of hitting. During a playoff weekend where lines are typically as sharp as ever, I’ll certainly take those odds!
— Shane Jackson