Your curated list of wagers for the NFL’s Wild Card Weekend, from moneylines and player props to overlooked underdogs.
As hard as it is to believe, we’ve already made it to the postseason, albeit with less than we started with. Knowing most of that could be attributed to just unimaginable poor luck, we set our sights on the do-or-die time of the year when everyone is essentially starting over again.
NFL Wild Card Round Best Bets Overview
Best Over/Under Bet of Wild Card Round
- Over/Under: 47.5
If excitement and pandemonium surrounding games was purely derived from the hair of the two starting quarterbacks involved, this Saturday night Chargers-Jaguars postseason tilt would likely be on pace to set new benchmarks.
I mean, just look at these luscious locks.
What sits atop each QB’s head won’t be the only pretty sight in Jacksonville during “Super” Wild Card Weekend. These are two talented offenses ready for a show.
Justin Herbert and Trevor Lawrence are both comfortably entrenched as franchise cornerstones for, at least, the next several years. Coming up big in playoff games figures to be part of their calling card.
I envision that beginning in this showdown, which will represent the postseason debut for each of these two signal-callers. The matchup can help.
The Chargers and Jags actually first hooked up back in Week 3, a 38-10 beatdown issued by the latter. Lawrence was excellent, churning out a gem in what turned out to be a long line of them. The Clemson product was so good throughout his sophomore campaign that he collected top-10 finishes in yards (4,113), touchdowns (25) and passer rating (95.2).
Meanwhile, Herbert was off in that first meeting between the two sides but we’d be remiss if we didn’t highlight his rib cartilage injury from the previous week. That certainly affected how he played.
A healthy Justin Herbert — like he is right now — is one of the best quarterbacks in the league. He played like such again this year, hence how he landed in the top three among all QBs in completion percentage (68.2 percent) and passing yards (4,739).
True, he won’t have one of his best weapons in Mike Williams (back) but this is still a deep-enough team in which Herbert can carry on and construct his usual destruction. Herbert also has experience in this predicament considering he had to get by earlier in the season without Williams and Keenan Allen. He did while still stuffing boxscores.
We should also take note of the style typically on display from the Bolts. Only one other quarterback (Tom Brady) attempted more passes this year than Herbert, as LA opted for a passing play 65 percent of the time. This tendency can only boost the prospects of an over.
The Chargers attacking Jacksonville’s pass defense may be in their best interest as well. After all, the Jags allowed more passing yards per game (238.5) than all but four teams. In addition, their 35 sacks registered as the seventh-lowest amount.
If Herbert is getting enough time behind center, he’ll be in position for one of his carving masterpieces. Lawrence and his guys would simply just have to keep up.
That’s something I believe will happen. Lawrence has a solid core with which to run alongside (and could be a top unit when Calvin Ridley is reinstated next year) and he’s crafting his work behind a stout offensive line that yielded the fifth-fewest sacks (28) in football. Surviving the likes of Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack requires this type of impressive offensive-line prowess.
As important as anything when attempting to determine potential performance in the playoffs is how guys will look when the bright lights on — especially in someone’s playoff debut.
Fortunately, we know the makeup of Herbert and Lawrence dating back to their college days and how they long for these enormous spots. They’ve thus far certainly exhibited such affection in their prime time outings as starters in the pros.
Herbert has been behind center for 12 night games as an NFL player, etching an illuminating 96.2 passer rating. He’s compiled nearly 300 yards on average and manufactured 24 touchdown passes compared to a mere seven interceptions.
Although it’s only been a short sample size of three prime time games at this level for Lawrence, the fact remains he was good. The former No. 1 overall draft pick amassed a cool 94.3 passer rating.
With the possibility of a 27-20/30-17 outcome looming, I suggest buying a half.
The Pick: OVER 47 (-114)
Best Spread Bet of Wild Card Round
- Spread: Giants +3/Vikings -3
Once again, Minnesota is being disrespected.
The line indicates that if the 13-win Vikings were making the trek to MetLife Stadium for this Wild Card matchup, they’d be underdogs or in a pick ‘em situation opposite a nine-win Giants club that basically squeaked into the playoffs for their first appearance on this stage since 2016.
Do not put too much thought into this: Minnesota is clearly the better team and should take care of business at home to move on. That’s what they did about a month ago when NY first came to town.
The result was a narrow 27-24 triumph in favor of the Vikings, who could not be stopped on offense. Kirk Cousins notched stellar numbers, as Justin Jefferson ran amok on the Giants’ secondary. T.J. Hockenson crafted an enormous day, too.
New York had some injuries on the defensive side of the ball going into that game, and while they’re much healthier now, I don’t think it will make a difference.
The Vikings boast one of the best offenses in the league, a unit that finished eighth in points per game (24.9) and seventh in total yards per game (361.5).
Most notably, we’re getting Cousins in his preferred setting. The 11-year vet has a (much-publicized) reputation for not coming through in prime time outings but this postseason affair is set during daytime hours, meaning we don’t have to worry about that dark cloud that’s always hovered over Cousins through his career.
Furthermore, this is a home date, where Cousins has performed considerably better compared to on the road. This tendency has been even more glaring since inking with Minnesota given the 10,336 passing yards, 79-24 TD/INT ratio and 103.8 passer rating he’s strung together in his 40 home bouts as a Viking.
Another nugget to weigh is that with a strong array of weapons surrounding Cousins — including the league’s best wide-out in Jefferson — the Vikings drew more pass interference, defensive holding, and illegal contact penalties than anyone else in the league this year. That can give an extra edge since the Giants were flagged for the fourth-most such penalties.
There’s no denying that Daniel Jones had a giant season for the G-Men in terms of positive growth. However, I just don’t think he has enough firepower to keep up here.
The Pick: VIKINGS -3 (-106)
Best Teaser Bet (4-team, 13 points) of Wild Card Round
Not often does the postseason churn out a free bingo space in teaser bets. For this year’s “Super” Wild Card Weekend, however, that’s what we’re getting in Buffalo when a limited Fins squad arrives.
Miami is not only down starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (concussion) but the roster’s solid second-stringer — Teddy Bridgewater (finger, knee) — will also be unable to start (though he is possibly able to serve as the backup), leaving QB1 duties to unimpressive rookie Skylar Thompson. The seventh-round draft choice from this past April made two starts during the regular season, and let’s just say he left a lot to be desired. He won’t be cashing checks for long with that 62.2 passer rating.
Well, all we need here is the mighty Buffalo Bills — in their home stadium playing in cold temperatures that they’re used to — to beat a team that will be severely capped by ineffective QB play.
Oh, and for what it’s worth, Josh Allen passed for 700-plus yards against the Dolphins in their two combined meetings this year.
Jacksonville losing by two touchdowns or less (or, ya know, winning straight up) in its home date with LA feels fairly close to a certainty. Let’s emphasize that this is the Chargers we’re talking about, the classic NFL franchise that just always makes things close. This is no exception.
Even if the Bolts were not representing the opposition in this one, Trevor Lawrence has earned the trust of bettors in such a big spot to simply not get blown out at home. Behind a sensational sophomore season from Lawrence, Jacksonville closed out the campaign on a five-game win streak to secure the AFC South title.
If those first two legs of our teaser wager prevail, we’ll leave the second half to the second-ever Monday night postseason contest. It also may be the final game in the all-time great career of Tom Brady. That last point is something that should be considered by anyone debating having action on this game. Do you really think Brady — in the playoffs and after changing his mind about retirement last offseason — is going to go down weakly? No, of course not.
The resolve shown by Brady and his Bucs at the end of the year is what propelled them to the top of the NFC South and they’re not about to let up. Relying on Brady with these unique circumstances hopefully ensures they don’t get demolished. The Cowboys aren’t entering strong anyway after looking flat in Week 18 thanks to an undeniably dreadful performance from Dak Prescott.
As for the over/under aspect, there can be at least just enough to get a final score into the low 30s. Dallas was fourth in scoring this season (27.5 points per game) and thus can bait the Buccaneers into more of an offensively-active bout. Brady showed down the stretch he still has more big games to be unfolded — like his 432-yard outing in the needed Week 17 win. That was versus a good Panthers D, too.
Best Prop Bet of Wild Card Round
- Tom Brady Over/Under 41.5 Pass Attempts
Ok, this is the great Tom Brady in potentially his final NFL game, if not just his final time wearing a Buccaneers uni.
As it is, no one threw more passes this season than Brady, as Tampa called more passing plays than any other club. That also includes TB12’s tendency to audible into a throw, something he may opt for as much as possible in a postseason setting.
This year in prime time, Brady went to the air more than 40 times per game. In the playoffs, he tops that niners decisively.
Well, we are indeed at this stage. Expect Brady to go up or down while on his terms.
The Pick: OVER 41.5 Pass Attempts (-114)
NFL Best Bets Record for the 2022 Season
- Over/Unders: “7-11“
- Spreads: 6-7-2
- Teasers: “6-9-1“
- Props: “10-11“
- Overall Record*: “29-37-3,” -23.05 units
*Each over/under is graded to win 2 units; everything else for 1 unit
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