After 17 weeks of regular season action the NFL’s playoff field has been set. And as per usual, the 12-team tournament features heavy turnover, with only five teams making a second straight trip to the postseason. Here’s a look at the NFL Wild Card Saturday odds.
In the AFC, the Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11) and Pittsburgh Steelers (9-6-1) – both 2017 divisional winners turned disappointments in 2018 – were replaced by the Houston Texans (11-5) and Baltimore Ravens (10-6), respectively. The conference’s two Wild Card entrants are also newcomers, as the Buffalo Bills (6-10) and Tennessee Titans (9-7) were ousted in favor of the Los Angeles Chargers (12-4) and Indianapolis Colts (10-6).
Over on the NFC side of the bracket, 2017 playoff participants like the Minnesota Vikings (8-7-1), Carolina Panthers (7-9), and Atlanta Falcons (7-9) missed the cut, replaced by the Chicago Bears (12-4), Seattle Seahawks (10-6), and Dallas Cowboys (10-6).
That leaves only five teams – the New Orleans Saints (13-3), Los Angeles Rams (13-3), Kansas City Chiefs (12-4), New England Patriots (11-5), and the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) – returning for a repeat appearance.
Of those five teams, the four sporting double-digit wins have all secured a first-round bye, leaving the Eagles as the lone contender from last year competing on Wild Card Weekend.
With seven fresh faces hoping to escape the first round and pave their path to Atlanta for Super Bowl 53, bettors have plenty to sort through before Saturday arrives. Fortunately, online sportsbook Bovada already has point spreads and game totals posted for all four Wild Card matchups.
Houston started the season in an 0-3 hole, disastrous for most teams as only five playoff campaigns in league history have began so badly.
But the Texans got right with a huge 37-34 road victory over their AFC South rivals in Indianapolis, the start of a nine-game winning jag. That streak ended in Houston, and at the hands of the Colts no less, when Indy came to town and notched a 24-21 win.
Sufficed to say, these teams know one another quite well, setting the stage for what should be a terrific rubber match to open the 2018 NFL Playoffs.
Quarterbacks are always the big story in pro football, but the position holds even more importance in this one.
The Colts are enjoying a resurgent return from Andrew Luck, a shoo-in for Comeback Player of the Year after sitting on the shelf for 616 days with a serious arm injury. Shielded by a retooled offensive line, and supplemented by head coach Frank Reich’s innovative offensive scheme, Luck looks like the QB who led Indianapolis to the 2014 AFC Championship Game as a Wild Card entrant.
As for the Texans, Deshaun Watson electrified the league as a rookie in 2017, only to have his season cut short after just seven games. Like Luck, his reemergence this year has solidified the offense, allowing All-Pro defensive talents like J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney to attack early and often courtesy of early leads.
Houston strung together a 6-2 record playing at home, while Indianapolis was marginal at 4-4 playing in hostile conditions. Of course, each team won on its opponent’s turf this season, so the razor thin line of Houston (-1.5) on offer on the NFL Wild Card Saturday odds certainly makes sense.
And despite the Texans’ penchant for defensive dominance, the game total has climbed to (48.5) – the highest of any Wild Card matchup.
The Seahawks are no stranger to playoff success, having made the dance five consecutive seasons prior to 2017. That run included a Super Bowl victory, along with an infamous last-minute loss in the Big Game one year later.
After shipping out almost every piece of its legendary “Legion of Boom” defense during the offseason, Seattle was supposed to be entering a rebuild – but head coach Pete Carroll had other ideas. By embracing an old-school offensive attack based around the running game – Seattle leads the league with 160.0 yards per game (ypg) on the ground – Carroll simply reloaded.
Unfortunately for him, the Seahawks head down south to Dallas for a date with the Cowboys – owners of the fifth-stingiest rush defense in football at just 94.6 ypg allowed.
Dallas will also look to its dominant rushing attack – powered by NFL rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott and his 1,434 yards (95.6 ypg) – to put points on the board. Those points could come at a premium, however, in light of a low (43) point game total on the NFL Wild Card Saturday odds.
Throw in a decided advantage in terms of venue – Dallas is 7-1 at home while Seattle is 4-4 on the road – and America’s Team has been tagged as (-1.5) favorites.