NFL Wild Card disappointment?
The NFL Super Wild Card round is set to get underway this weekend, but Sunday’s highly anticipated matchups might be duds.
The three Sunday games include the Miami Dolphins at the Buffalo Bills, New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings, and Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals. The Dolphins-Bills and Ravens-Bengals games have spreads of 13 points and 8.5 points, respectively, but how could that be for games of such magnitude between some of the best teams in the league?
Tua Tagovailoa and Lamar Jackson are both expected to be unavailable
The answer is that starting quarterbacks Tua Tagovailoa and Lamar Jackson are both expected to be unavailable this weekend. If that is the case, the Dolphins and Ravens are almost guaranteed to be sent home, while the Bills and Bengals cruise into the next round.
Injuries alter betting odds
The NFL postseason is one of the best sports betting opportunities on the calendar. In addition, the games are usually the most entertaining of the year, due to the heightened stakes and competitiveness between teams.
Bills have ballooned from 10 to 13-point favorites in just a few days
Without Tagovailoa in the starting lineup, however, the Dolphins will almost assuredly be unable to cope with the Bills. The movement in betting odds (per DraftKings sportsbook) reflects that sentiment, as the Bills have ballooned from 10 to 13-point favorites in just a few days and could grow even further if and when Tagovailoa is officially ruled out.
The Dolphins went 1-4 in games without their regular starting QB this season. They split the season series against the Bills, but also just lost to them 32-29 in Week 15, and that was with Tagovailoa taking snaps.
Sunday’s late game between the Ravens and Bengals presents a similar scenario. Baltimore opened as 6.5-point dogs and is now facing an 8.5-point hole as Jackson is still yet to return to practice with a knee injury. Originally estimated to be out for a maximum of three weeks, it has been nearly six weeks since he has seen a football field, and it seems improbable he would suddenly suit up to play one of the league’s best teams.
Backup quarterback Tyler Huntley is also dinged and might not play either, which would leave rookie Anthony Brown to make his second career and first playoff start. Baltimore is scoring just 13 points per game without Jackson and also just lost to the Bengals 27-16 in the final game of the season.
Other first round matchups
Elsewhere in the AFC, the Los Angeles Chargers are 2.5-point favorites over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The line opened with the Chargers as one-point favorites and has been bet up despite them being on the road and facing a Jags team that has won five-straight games.
QBs Justin Herbert and Trevor Lawrence will battle it out as they try to earn spots in the next round, where they could face the Super Bowl-favorite Kansas City Chiefs on the road, depending on the results of the other games (the remaining AFC playoff team with the lowest seed will face the top-seeded Chiefs in the second round).
most lopsided matchup is the San Francisco 49ers versus the Seattle Seahawks
The NFC does not have as large of spreads in its Wild Card scenarios. The most lopsided matchup is the San Francisco 49ers versus the Seattle Seahawks, in which the Niners are favored by 9.5 points. Rookie third stringer QB Brock Purdy and newly announced Pro Bowler Geno Smith will both be making their playoff debuts.
The New York Giants also travel to Minnesota to play the Vikings as three-point underdogs mid-afternoon Sunday. The two teams met in Week 16 when the Vikings won by, guess what, three points. Daniel Jones and Kirk Cousins have their limitations, and neither team is expected to make a deep run, but the matchup should be entertaining.
The final game of the Super Wild Card round features the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Cowboys had a much better regular season, finishing 12-5 to Tampa’s 8-9, but are 0-2 against the Bucs in the Tom Brady era. Both teams are flawed, which makes the impending battle all the more interesting.