We’ve reached the 2019-20 NFL postseason, and oddsmakers are constantly adjusting lines to account for all the action coming in on both sides of the spread.
At PlayPicks, we feel confident with the information that we have to start making our picks against the spread.
In this weekly column, we will list our best bets against the spread with data to support our picks. Then, we will list the following games in order of our confidence in analyzing the matchup. Keep in mind that lines can often shift due to weather or other unforeseen issues. Of course, injury news plays a huge role throughout the NFL season, and the status of specific players often bears monitoring until a couple of hours before kickoff.
NFL Wild Card Bets Against The Spread
Seattle Seahawks (-2) at Philadelphia Eagles
The Seahawks have played an insane number of close games this year and this short spread could come into play if they get into another photo finish. But chances are good that they can handle an Eagles team that backed into the playoffs thanks to a choke job by the Cowboys. Philadelphia was stout in run defense per usual, but coughed up 27 TD passes and yielded a 90.8 passer rating this season. Jim Schwartz’s defense allowed below-average QBs from Miami and Washington to post ratings over 119 and got shredded in the first half of a home game against Eli Manning.
While Russell Wilson posted modest numbers (13-for-25, 200 yards, TD, INT) in a 17-9 win at Philly in November, that game was played with heavy wind and rain. Tyler Lockett (leg) was also significantly hindered at that point, but should be ready to go in Sunday’s rematch with a forecast for mild temperatures in the 40s and no precipitation. Lockett and big rookie D.K. Metcalf will present problems for Philly’s below-average cornerbacks. Staring DB Jalen Mills (ankle) is questionable for the Eagles. Wilson, who is 4-0 in his career against Philly, missed what could’ve been a long TD and had another potential TD dropped in November’s win. Seattle’s offense will present a different look with speedy rookie Travis Homer coming out of the backfield and Marshawn Lynch serving as a short-yardage weapon. The Eagles don’t plan to change much defensively, and Wilson is smart enough to avoid their pressure and solve their scheme.
Seattle’s pass rush is significantly bolstered by the healthy return of Jadeveon Clowney and Ziggy Ansah. The biggest issue for the Seahawks will be stopping the run, as they rank 26th in DVOA rush defense and Philly is third in power run blocking per Football Outsiders. Yet the Eagles could still be without OT Lane Johnson (ankle) and are using sixth-rounder Boston Scott as a lead back. Philly’s already depleted receiving corps takes another huge hit with Zach Ertz awaiting medical clearance to play through a lacerated kidney. Carson Wentz has yet to prove himself in the playoffs and Wilson is a clutch performer, who has helped Seattle go 7-1 straight up and 5-2-1 ATS on the road this season.
New Orleans Saints (-7.5) vs Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings are unlikely to look as poorly as they did in a critical Week 16 showdown against the Packers. However, they will be playing a far, far more complete team on Wild Card weekend, and will be on the road. Minnesota went 4-4 on the road this season and 2-2 ATS when listed as an underdog. The Vikings allowed 7.2 yards per attempt and a 93.9 passer rating in road games, while Drew Brees dominated with a 119.7 passer rating and 17:3 TD:INT ratio at the Superdome.
New Orleans scoring points an efficient clip in home games is nothing new. But this year, the Saints have dominated in all venues thanks in part to a much improved defense. Defensive Coordinator Dennis Allen has sharpened a unit that ranks fifth in DVOA rush defense and 13th against the pass. The Saints’ defensive line is fifth in adjusted sack rate (8.1%) and Kirk Cousins took 10 sacks over his first three road starts this year, before laying down on five sacks in a home loss to the Packers.
Cousins took six sacks in an 35-18 postseason loss to Green Bay in 2015, and will be making only his second postseason start. Cousins will have to compete with future Hall of Famer Drew Brees and the league’s best WR Michael Thomas with one hand tied behind his back, as WR Adam Thielen (hamstring) looks quite hobbled and Vikings MVP Dalvin Cook (shoulder) could be limited on Sunday.
Buffalo Bills (+2.5) at Houston Texans
Houston expects get speedy WR Will Fuller (hamstring) back for this contest, but the oft-injured wideout could suffer a setback at any point. With Fuller hobbled most of the season, Houston’s offense has been wildly inconsistent and all too dependent on DeAndre Hopkins. The Bills can shadow Hopkins with elite young CB Tre’Davious White and their third-ranked pass defense should be able to contain Fuller, Kenny Stills, and the Texans hulking TEs as the receiving options for Deshaun Watson.
While Buffalo’s offense has been far less explosive, it’s been more consistent than that of the Texans. The Bills have the fourth-highest run-play percentage (46.5%) in the NFL and averaged 4.2 YPC with 9 rushing scores on the road this season. Buffalo went 6-0-2 ATS on the road and 4-0-2 ATS when listed as an underdog this year. Houston was just 2-6 ATS at home and recorded 3 of its last 4 wins by 3 points. That’s caused significant action to come in on the Bills and move the number off the hook to 2.5 points. We still recommend going with the more consistent team, which has one of the best defenses in the league and a proven track record on the road.
New England Patriots (-5) vs Tennessee Titans
Most teams could be written off after losing 3 of their final 5 games and choking away a first-round bye with a home loss to the lowly Dolphins. Yet the Patriots are different. New England uses sleights as motivation and Tom Brady certainly has bulletin board material with pundits calling him washed up, or even “the worst QB in these playoffs.” Julian Edelman is playing through a rough shoulder sprain and the Pats other receivers have struggled to click with Brady. But Mohamed Sanu, Phillip Dorsett, and N’Keal Harry could all make plays against a Titans team that ranks 21st in DVOA pass defense and coughed up a 7:1 TD:INT ratio over their last three road games.
While the Patriots offense is a question mark, we can fully expect their elite defense to bounce back after a head-scratching collapse against the Dolphins. New England allowed just 3.6 YPC at home and was one of eight teams to hold opponents under 100 rushing YPG this season. The Pats will key in on rushing champ Derrick Henry and force Ryan Tannehill to try and beat them. He’s been great during the second half of the season, but Tannehill is making his postseason and is 0-6 with a 5:10 TD:INT ratio in his career at Foxboro. The Pats only allowed 2 rushing TDs with a 6:8 TD:INT ratio at home, and allowed the fewest TDs per drive (.108) overall. Teasing the Titans up to +7 or higher is a smart play, but New England’s pedigree indicates another Patriots home win is coming and the spread is becoming exploitable where it’s moved down to Patriots (-4.5).
This article was originally published Thursday morning. Lines are subject to change.