Top Picks for NFL Wild Card Saturday – January 9th

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Wild Card weekend has arrived in the NFL. History shows us it’s time to pay attention, even if the odds are long for teams who qualify for the playoffs as wild cards to make it to the Super Bowl, much less win it. In fact, it has been going on a decade since any wild-card team even claimed a conference championship to make it to the big game. Maybe that will change this year with a fourth wild-card qualifier in each conference.

Since the wild-card system was implemented in 1970 following the AFL-NFL merger, only 10 wild-card teams have advanced all the way to the Super Bowl and only six have won it. Only four – the 1985 New England Patriots (who lost Super Bowl XX to the Chicago Bears), the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers (who defeated the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL), the 2007 New York Giants (who edged the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII) and 2010 Green Bay Packers – have won the three games on the road now required just to reach the Super Bowl.

But they have done it, proving that it can be done. That is food for thought for the Indianapolis Colts, the Los Angeles Rams and the Tom Brady-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers heading into Wild Card Saturday this weekend. Odds courtesy of

Wild Card Futures

Now is the time to grab the best future odds on any of the wild-card entries to pull off the ultimate string of upsets and actually advance to the Super Bowl or even win it. Of Saturday’s teams, Tampa Bay is +300 to capture the National Football Conference title and +800 to win Super Bowl LV after doing so. The Rams (+1400 to win the NFC and +3500 to win the Super Bowl) and the Colts (+2000 to win the AFC and +5000 to win it all) are much greater longshots.

Although the Bucs earned only one win all season over a playoff team, it is difficult to bet against Brady, who won six Super Bowl rings for the Patriots before joining the Bucs this season. Now is the time to jump on this year’s Brady bandwagon if you’re going to do it, especially in a year when there is no clear-cut dominant NFC team. Plus the Bucs’ only win over a fellow playoff contender in the regular season came against top-seeded Green Bay.

The Bets
Tampa Bay to Win NFC!
Super Bowl LV

Here are the breakdowns and best bets available for this Saturday’s three wild-card games, as the wild-card Colts, seeded No. 7, take on the second-seeded Buffalo Bills, winners of the AFC East division; the wild-card Rams, seeded No. 6, battle the third-seeded Seattle Seahawks, winners of the NFC West division; and the Bucs, seeded No. 5, will face the Washington Redskins, winners of the underachieving NFC East division:

1:05 p.m. ET – No. 7 Indianapolis at No. 2 Buffalo (-7) O/U: 51

Teams Spread Money Line Total Points
Indianapolis Colts +7 (-110) +235 O 51½ (-115)
Buffalo Bills -7 (-110) -290 U 51½ (-105)

Buffalo handled AFC East division rival Miami with ease in its regular-season finale, winning 56-26 despite playing almost entirely backups throughout the second half. The Bills’ win knocked the Dolphins out of the playoff picture and opened the door for Indianapolis to clinch a playoff berth against the one-win Jacksonville Jaguars.

Do not expect the Bills to be doing the Colts any more favors. Buffalo has been an absolute betting juggernaut, covering eight straight games since Week 9 by an average cover margin of 14.8 points. Quarterback Josh Allen has been a large reason for the giant leap that the Bills have taken this season, and the MVP candidate should have little trouble picking apart a Colts secondary that ranks 20th in passing yards allowed this season.

Wide receiver Stefon Diggs led the NFL in receiving yards this season, and he should easily eclipse the century mark in his playoff debut for Buffalo. The Bills’ formidable passing attack is a matchup nightmare for the Colts. While the Colts have a top-3 rushing defense, the Bills are more than capable of beating anyone solely through the air.

The Colts’ offense is not built to engage in a scoring track meet with the Bills, who average over 31 points per game. Look for the Colts to attempt to control the clock with their rushing attack in an attempt to keep Allen and Company off the field. If Indianapolis falls behind early, it will have difficulty generating a comeback on the arm of 39-year-old quarterback Phillip Rivers. With fans in attendance for the first time all season in western New York and with that added juice in the stadium the Bills will cruise to a double-digit win in their first home playoff game since 1996.

The Bets
Stefon Diggs OVER Prop

4:40 p.m. ET – No. 6 Los Angeles at No. 3 Seattle (-3½) O/U: 42.5

Teams Spread Money Line Total Points
Los Angeles Rams +3½ (-115) +145 O 42 (-105)
Seattle Seahawks -3½ (-105) -170 U 42 (-115)

The Rams secured a playoff berth by defeating division rival Arizona 18-7 last Sunday to earn a date with the NFC West champion Seahawks. These two teams met in Week 16 in a matchup that Seattle won 20-9 to clinch the division. Rams quarterback Jared Goff broke his thumb on his throwing hand in that game, requiring him to get surgery and miss the team’s Week 17 win. John Wolford made his first career start in that game and was serviceable, throwing for 231 yards and rushing for 56 yards. Head Coach Sean McVay has said that he will not announce who will be under center Saturday until shortly before game time, and obviously his decision could play a huge role in the outcome of this contest. Goff would be more valuable at quarterback considering Seattle now has a full week of game film of backup John Wolford to dissect, something Arizona lacked possession of in its pre-game preparation for the regular-season finale.

The Rams will get receiver Cooper Kupp off of the COVID-19/Reserve list, which will greatly help whoever is under center for Los Angeles. The Rams also are expected to get four-time Pro Bowler Andrew Whitworth back this week at left tackle.

The Seahawks are much healthier, with their only significant injury questions revolving around running back Chris Carson and star safety Jamal Adams, both of whom are expected to play.

Expect this game to be ugly. The Rams will have to win mainly on the strength of their elite defense and they are more than capable of doing so. Their defense was responsible for half of the team’s 18 points in Week 17. Los Angeles outgained Seattle in the Week 16 matchup, with the Rams’ two empty red zone trips deciding the game. This confrontation will be similar to that low-scoring game, with the Rams’ elite defense and possibly limited offense being the reasons why. The side to take would be the Rams if the number climbs back to 4. If not, the play in this game is the Under of 42.5 points.

The Bets
Rams +3½
Under 42

8:15 p.m. ET – No. 5 Tampa Bay (8½) at No. 4 Washington O/U: 45

Teams Spread Money Line Total Points
Tampa Bay Buccaneers -8½ (-110) -400 O 44½ (-105)
Washington Football Team +8½ (-110) +310 U 44½ (-115)

The 7-9 Washington Football Team won the NFC East on Sunday Night Football in a rather unimpressive yet gritty 20-14 win in Philadelphia. That means at under .500, Washington has earned the right to host a playoff game. Despite an empty stadium, there is an aspect of home-field advantage that may play into Washington’s favor. For one thing, it will force the 43-year-old Brady up north to play outside in a cold atmosphere; then again, that’s something he did with great success during his reign in New England.

Tampa Bay finished the season 11-5, good enough to grab a wild-card slot and the No. 5 seed in the NFC. In the Bucs’ regular-season finale, their star receiver Mike Evans was carted off with an apparent leg injury and although he practiced Thursday, his availability and effectiveness on Saturday remains somewhat in question. The Buccaneers still have the advantage at receiver with Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown to go along with future Hall of Famer Rob Gronkowski at tight end.

Washington should be commended for overcoming great adversity to even get this far. Washington ranked second in the league this season in yards allowed, as well as fourth in points allowed per game. The Football Team will be looking to get after Brady early and often, and they will have to succeed to have any chance of pulling off the upset.

Tampa Bay’s defense is formidable as well, and Washington’s offense is not. The Bucs also rank in the top 10 in scoring defense as well as ranking first in rushing yards allowed per game. The Washington offense ranks 30th in total yards per game and 25th in points per game. This points to the Under of 45 being the smartest play in this game. Expect Tampa Bay to stop any form of rushing attack Washington throws at them, making the Antonio Gibson under for rushing yards also worth a look. The all-time Under in outdoor NFL playoff games is 81-60-4 and that trend will continue Saturday night.

The Bets
Antonio Gibson UNDER Prop
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Joe Menzer / Author

Joe is an award-winning writer and editor who has covered the NBA, NFL, NASCAR, golf, various collegiate athletics and other sports for newspapers, Turner Sports, Fox Sports and ESPN. He has been on the beat for seven Super Bowls, six Daytona 500s and numerous NBA playoff series and All-Star Games. He once was dispatched to Rome, Italy to spend time with an NBA draft choice who opted to play overseas, after which he produced an award-winning series of stories. He also is passionate about fantasy sports and breaking down games in ways that even novice gamblers can use to make their most intelligent wagering decisions.