NFL playoff tips: Best bets for the Wild Card round
We make our picks for the first stage of the postseason, with our 10/1 boost featuring an upset in Jacksonville.
Kansas City Chiefs to beat Tennessee Titans -
Kansas City went undefeated in their first five games before losing six of the next seven, only to secure a playoff berth by closing out the season with four straight victories.
Those performances over the past four weeks – in which they outscored their opponents 112-65 – suggest that the unpredictable Chiefs are at least close to the form they showed in the early stages of the season.
Encouragingly for Andy Reid’s side, they host a poor Titans team that somehow find themselves in the Wild Card round despite winning just nine games and being outscored by 22 points over the course of the season.
Tennessee can thank their home record and performances against their divisional rivals for that, but they’ve won just three of eight road games this season and are 2-6 against teams from outside the AFC South.
Los Angeles Rams to beat Atlanta Falcons -
Expect Atlanta’s defence of their NFC crown to come to an end this weekend as they head into Los Angeles to face a well-rested Rams team.
LA gave several of their key starters last weekend off having already locked up the third seed, while the Falcons travelled to Carolina for a gruelling NFC South showdown to determine whether they would even reach the postseason.
Atlanta won that game and held the Panthers to 10 points, but it’s hard to see them putting together a similar defensive performance against the league’s highest-scoring team.
Los Angeles’ defence has been excellent over the past few weeks and ranks fifth in the NFL for turnovers, so they should be able to contain a Falcons offense that has been surprisingly average this season.
Buffalo Bills to beat Jacksonville Jaguars -
There’s almost always an upset in the Wild Card round, with all four of the top seeds advancing only twice in the past 10 years.
This season, the Bills are the underdogs with the best chance of causing a shock as they face a Jaguars team that closed out the season with back-to-back defeats.
Buffalo won four of their last six games, with both defeats coming against the New England Patriots, and, although their -57 points differential is the worst of any team in the postseason, that’s not necessarily a death sentence for their chances on Sunday.
The Bills are the seventh NFL team to make the playoffs with a point differential of minus-50 or worse. All six previous teams won their first playoff game. pic.twitter.com/z29atg0igV— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 1, 2018
The Bills have the better quarterback in Tyrod Taylor, and their defence – which has intercepted the sixth-most passes in the league this season – should generate plenty of takeaways against the often careless Blake Bortles.
New Orleans Saints to beat Carolina Panthers -
The Saints can earn a rare 3-0 season sweep over the Panthers with a win on Sunday night, having beaten them 34-13 in Carolina back in Week 3 and 31-21 in New Orleans in Week 13.
There’s an old NFL cliché that it’s hard to beat a team three times in a season, but the opposite is actually true.
Since 1970, 20 teams have beaten a divisional opponent twice in the regular season before meeting them again in the postseason, and 13 of those went on to win the playoff game.
The Saints – who rank inside the top 10 in both points scored and against this season – clearly have the Panthers’ number, and also have the advantage of playing at home on Sunday, where they’ve won seven out of eight this season.
They should comfortably outscore a Carolina offense that was held to just 10 points in Atlanta last week.