After an action-packed Week 17 slate which sent the Tennessee Titans (9-7) and Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) through to the postseason thanks to huge wins, the NFL Playoffs begin in earnest this weekend.
Wild Card Weekend festivities kick off on Saturday afternoon with the first half of dual doubleheaders, followed by the second installment on Sunday.
And as always, online sportsbook Bovada has bettors covered with point spreads and moneyline odds for all four Wild Card Weekend contests.
#5 Buffalo Bills (10-6) @ #4 Houston Texans (10-6)
Saturday at 4:35 p.m. EST on ESPN/ABC
The playoffs begin with a matchup of two 10-6 teams that have vastly different postseason histories of late.
Since 2011, the Texans have made the playoffs in six of their last nine tries. Unfortunately for Houston head coach Bill O’Brien, however, the team hasn’t been able to escape the Divisional Round despite boasting four-time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt and dynamic young QB Deshaun Watson.
As for the Bills, this year’s playoff appearance marks just the second in Buffalo’s last 20 seasons. Head coach Sean McDermott is responsible for both of them though, making it two trips to the postseason in three years for the defensive coordinator who helped the Carolina Panthers play in Super Bowl 50.
Both of these teams wisely rested their key starters in meaningless Week 17 losses, and Houston will receive a shot in the arm with Watt returning from a pectoral injury that cost him half the regular season.
The bookmakers at Bovada seem to have these teams sized up rather evenly, as the Texans are just (-3) home favorites here.
#6 Tennessee Titans (9-7) @ #3 New England Patriots (12-4)
Saturday at 8:15 p.m. EST on CBS
New England fans begin their annual Super Bowl chase one week earlier than usual, and it’s all thanks to the NFL’s most improbable upset since 1995.
All the Patriots needed to secure their 10th straight first-round bye was a victory over the Miami Dolphins (5-11). The Pats closed as massive (-17.5) favorites over the rebuilding ‘Phins, but despite yet another fourth quarter comeback in the closing minutes by Tom Brady, it was Ryan Fitzpatrick who had the last laugh in a 27-24 thriller.
Brady continued his season-long trend of looking like a 42-year old quarterback, struggling to connect with his ragtag crew of wide receivers and throwing his first career pick-six against the Dolphins.
Losing that first-round bye to the Kansas City Chiefs (12-4) could prove pivotal to the Patriots’ chances of claiming the Lombardi Trophy for a record-setting seventh time. Under the Belichick / Brady dynasty, New England has never won the Super Bowl after playing on Wild Card Weekend.
Even worse, the last six Super Bowls have been contested by teams who earned a first-round bye, meaning all 48 teams to play on Wild Card Weekend since 2013 have fallen short of the ultimate finish line.
None of that bodes well for a Patriots team that expected to have the week off, especially facing a resurgent Titans squad riding a wave of momentum.
After starting the season backing up Marcus Mariota, former Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill has revived his career in Music City. Since taking over for Mariota in Week 7, with Tennessee languishing at 2-4, Tannehill has guided his team to a 7-3 record while posting top-5 numbers in every meaningful passing metric.
Paired with the NFL’s leading rusher in running back Derrick Henry, Tannehill – who went a respectable 4-7 against the vaunted Patriots during his days as a Dolphin – has led the Titans offense to 30.4 points per game.
Nonetheless, the Patriots’ playoff pedigree combined with home field advantage makes the Titans (+4.5 / +185) underdogs in this one.