NFL Wild Card Weekend includes a Saturday night showdown between the Seahawks and Cowboys. For this game and every postseason contest, we’ll break down the sports betting lines and recommend where to place your bets at DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook.
Keep an eye on injury news right up until kick off since things can change quickly in the NFL. Any player listed as questionable may see limited action or not suit up at all if they don’t respond well in warm-ups.
NFL Wild Card Football Betting Odds
Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys
NFL Wild Card Saturday Night Football Breakdown
Despite losing several key pieces on defense and facing one of the most difficult schedules in the NFL, the dangerous Seahawks are back in the playoffs.
Seattle is 6-0 in opening-round playoff games (Wild Card or Divisional Round) under Pete Carroll and have one of the most reliable postseason QBs in the game. Russell Wilson owns an 8-4 record and 94.1 passer rating in his postseason career. By contrast, Cowboys QB Dak Prescott is making just his second playoff appearance. However, he was excellent in a 34-31 loss to Green Bay in 2016.
Yet this game may be decided up front with two of the three most run-heavy offenses in the NFL facing off. Seattle averages 160 rushing YPG to lead the league. Despite Ezekiel Elliott‘s league-leading 1,434 rushing yards, Dallas is 10th at 122.7 rushing YPG.
Dallas ranks fifth in DVOA rush defense thanks to the rapid ascent of LBs Jaylon Smith and rookie Leighton Vander Esch, who is expected to play through a shin injury. Defensive tackles Tyrone Crawford (neck) and David Irving (ankle) are both questionable for Dallas.
Surprisingly, the Cowboys have allowed an above-average 4.1 YPC at home, versus 3.4 YPC on the road. Seattle averages 4.6 YPC, and Wilson owns a 111.2 passer rating on the road this season.
Chris Carson rushed for 102 yards on an absurd 32 carries when Seattle beat Dallas 24-13 back in Week 3. Carson has five TDs over his last four appearances and is the clear the lead back with veteran Mike Davis operating in a change-of-pace role. Rookie Rashaad Penny has not seen a touch in the red zone since Week 11. He is unlikely to be trusted in a road playoff game.
While both RG D.J. Fluker (hamstring) and LG J.R. Sweezy (foot) missed Week 17, they should be active Saturday. Seattle is fifth in power run blocking. And Dallas has been vulnerable at the point of attack, ranking 20th against power run blocking on the defensive line.
This season, Wilson owns a 139 passing TD percentage index that bests the 132 he posted to lead the NFL in 2015. In other words, he’s been lethal. Seattle ranks seventh in points per red zone trip (5.33) thanks to his poise.
That said, Wilson has been under consistent pressure, absorbing the third-most sacks (51) in the NFL this year. While Seattle ranks 30th in adjusted sack rate (10.4%), the Cowboys defensive line is a poor 27th in adjusted sack rate (6.5%) with 39 sacks on the year.
Wilson finally has two elite WRs with a healthy Doug Baldwin joining breakout stud Tyler Lockett. Both quick-footed receivers pose matchup issues for plus-sized corners Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie. Additionally, Cowboys slot CB Anthony Brown has been torched lately while battling a back injury and Baldwin runs 64% of his routes inside this season.
The Seahawks also have an unflappable kicker with a huge leg in Sebastian Janikowski, an advantage that should not be overlooked in a contest with a 42-point total. Meanwhile, Dallas let elite kicker Dan Bailey go and replaced him with Brett Maher, who is 6-for-8 in the 30-39 yard range and 7-for-11 in the 40-49 yard range this season.
Moving on to the Dallas weapons, acquiring Amari Cooper from the Raiders seems to have turned the Cowboys season around. Even so, their offense remains limited.
It’s no secret Elliott, who led the league in rush attempts and yards, will get the ball early and often. Yet unlike in recent seasons, the Cowboys offensive line has struggled. Center Travis Frederick (illness) has been out all year, LT Tyron Smith (neck) has been banged up with several injuries, and RG Zack Martin (knee) joined Smith on the sidelines in Week 17 with an ailing knee.
The Seahawks defense has been sharp lately and is bolstered by the return of WLB K.J. Wright. He’d been out or limited most of the season with a knee injury. Wright played limited snaps the last two weeks but could be ready for a full workload alongside fellow elite LB Bobby Wagner. That tandem would go a long way toward limiting Elliott and the Cowboys’ ground attack.
Dallas ranks third in power run blocking but 19th overall in DVOA rush offense. Worse still, the Cowboys are 26th in DVOA pass offense. Prescott averages just 7.4 yards per attempt. Seattle has held him to 58.8% completion race with a 1:4 TD:INT ratio and 9 sacks over two career meetings.
Dallas is 28th in adjusted sack rate (9.7%), and only Houston’s Deshaun Watson has been sacked more than Prescott this season. The Colts laid the blueprint for shutting down the Cowboys offense in a 23-0 trouncing in Week 15. Seattle runs a similar defensive scheme that aims to stop the run and force throws underneath. The Seahawks rank ninth in DVOA against downfield throws.
Prescott may have to look toward slot WR Cole Beasley and emerging TE Blake Jarwin to convert in obvious passing situations. Cooper is always capable of making big plays but will draw a tough matchup against physical LCB Shaquill Griffin or impressive rookie RCB Tre Flowers.
Of course, Ezekiel Elliott is in line for heavy volume and he should be able to move the chains against a Seahawks team that’s coughed up 5.17 YPC over their last 8 games. Well rested after sitting out Week 17, Elliott represents the Cowboys’ best chance to hold serve at home.
NFL Wild Card Picks
Seattle has a clear-cut edge in the coaching department. Most NFL franchises would’ve fired Jason Garrett by now. Plus, he could’ve lost his job during the season if not for the miraculous turnaround sparked in part by Cooper’s acquisition.
Carroll and his staff have done a great job of game planning defensively and should mimic the Colts’ approach to at least contain the Cowboys’ simplified offense.
The one advantage for Dallas may be found on defense. Former Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard is now on staff as the Cowboys’ cornerbacks coach. Nevertheless, so much of what Wilson does is ad-libbed and difficult to game plan against.
For a few more metrics, Seattle is 26th in pace of play but 12th in drive success rate (DSR) thanks to Wilson’s efficiency. Dallas ranks eighth in red-zone defense and was as high as second earlier in the season, so we’d expect some of the Seahawks’ drives to stall.
While Dallas ranks 24th in pace and both teams feature a run-heavy approach, the efficiency of both QBs in the red zone leads us to take the Over (43 on DraftKings Sportsbook).
Approximately 60% of bets and over 70% of public money is coming in on the Over because of the recent results in Seahawks’ games (seven of their last eight have gone Over).
The line opened at 2.5 points was bet down in most spots, then back up with the Cowboys’ star power drawing more bettors. A very low-scoring game would seem to favor the Cowboys. Therefore, one route could be to tease the Seahawks and the Over (42.5) and hope for Wilson to provide some of his late magic in another close win.
Either way, we recommend the Seahawks (+3 on FanDuel Sportsbook) to remain perfect in opening-round playoff games, factoring in an improved defense thanks to the return of K.J. Wright and a more balanced offense with Doug Baldwin healthy.