Glass-half-full view: Football fans have six games, instead of the usual four, to watch this Wild Card weekend.
Glass-half-empty view: One of those games features a sub-.500 team that doesn’t even have a name, another includes a mediocre Bears team that made the playoffs despite enduring a six-game losing streak, and another might showcase former AAF quarterback John Wolford, who has never thrown an NFL touchdown pass, in a starting role.
Glass-half-full view, part deux: Hey, the AFC games all look decent on paper.
Decisive glass-half-full view: Whether a game is compelling on paper or not, whether the teams backed into a playoff spot or not, sports betting can potentially make even the sloppiest affair exciting.
It wasn’t easy, but the NFL got through a full regular season in the COVID era, and it looks like the Super Bowl will happen on time, on Sunday, Feb. 7. Here’s a look at the opening betting lines for the six Wild Card weekend games and the best Super Bowl odds on each of the 14 playoff teams at the various legal sports betting operators around the country.
Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills
When: Saturday, 1:05 p.m. ET
Consensus line: Bills -7
Consensus total: 51.5
No team is coming into the playoffs with more momentum than the AFC East champion and AFC No. 2 seed Buffalo Bills, who won their final six games — and would have finished with 10 straight victories if not for the ridiculous “Hail Murray.” If you believe third-year QB and MVP candidate Josh Allen has turned a corner and won’t repeat last season’s playoff disappointment, BetMGM has the best moneyline odds we found on the Bills, at -300. No gambler can ever feel overly comfortable trusting 39-year-old Colts QB Philip Rivers, who has thrown 31 picks in his last 32 games, but the FanDuel Sportsbook moneyline price of +265 on Indy arguably offers better value than a -110 spread bet.
Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks
When: Saturday, 4:40 p.m. ET
Consensus line: Seahawks -4.5
Consensus total: 42.5
Russell Wilson vs. John Wolford is nobody’s idea of a marquee matchup. Then again, neither is Russell Wilson vs. Jared Goff. Will the Rams roll out Goff, fresh off surgery for a broken finger, or a healthy Wolford? That’s uncertain. And it might not matter much to the betting line. As in their Week 17 win over Arizona, the pressure here is on Aaron Donald and the Rams defense to win this NFC West rivalry game. FanDuel has the best moneyline price on the mild upset at +180, while BetMGM is charging -200 to take Seattle. For what it’s worth, the home team won — and covered — both times these teams met during the regular season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Washington Football Team
When: Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET
Consensus line: Buccaneers -8
Consensus total: 46.5
With a little assist from the reverse-motivated Eagles, Washington is hosting a playoff game despite going 7-9 in 2020. Incredibly, the last four 8-8-or-worse playoff teams won in the Wild Card round, a streak stretching back to the 8-8 2008 Chargers’ overtime win over the Colts. And the matchup here holds a whiff of upset potential: Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady still looks the GOAT when he has time in the pocket but lacks the mobility to deal well with pressure, and Washington’s strength is its defensive front. Does that make the Football Team live enough to take them at +320 moneyline odds? Or at -400, are the Bucs a safe bet to bring an end to Alex Smith’s feel-good story?
Baltimore Ravens at Tennessee Titans
When: Sunday, 1:05 p.m. ET
Consensus line: Ravens -3.5
Consensus total: 54.5
This showdown between the AFC’s fourth and fifth seeds has the closest spread and the highest point total on the board, and it’s not hard to understand why. It’s Lamar Jackson vs. the Titans’ porous defense, with Derrick Henry, Ryan Tannehill, A.J. Brown, and the AFC’s second-highest scoring team on the other side. Frankly, it’s a bit surprising that the Ravens are favored on the road by more than a field goal. Baltimore went 3-4 this season against teams that finished with winning records (including an overtime loss at home to the Titans in November) and racked up a gaudy 8-1 mark vs. teams that finished with losing records. The Ravens roll into the playoffs on a hot streak — but it includes blowout wins over the Cowboys, Giants, Bengals, and Jags. BetMGM offers the best moneyline price on the Ravens at -190, but it’s PointsBet’s +165 on Tennessee at home that appears loaded with value.
Chicago Bears at New Orleans Saints
When: Sunday, 4:40 p.m. ET
Consensus line: Saints -9.5
Consensus total: 47.5
The game with the greatest potential COVID impact is also the one oddsmakers deem the biggest mismatch of the weekend. Saints superstar running back Alvin Kamara can theoretically come off the suspended list on game day, but will he be coronavirus-free and able to perform at full strength? Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears eked into the postseason at 8-8 and are an industry-best +380 at FanDuel to win outright, while PointsBet has the Saints the cheapest at -470. But maybe the move here is to avoid picking a team and instead root against points, as ESPN’s Preston Johnson recommends.
Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers
When: Sunday, 8:15 p.m. ET
Consensus line: Steelers -4
Consensus total: 46.5
Pittsburgh came dangerously close to winning this matchup on the road using backups in Week 17 against a Browns team that needed a win to get into the postseason. So despite a 1-4 finish to what had previously been a perfect season, the Steelers are the favorite here. These are two of the more mercurial teams in the playoffs, and it’s a matchup of a veteran team that’s been there many times before against a franchise that hasn’t played January football since a narrow loss to Pittsburgh on Jan. 5, 2003. DraftKings Sportsbook and PointsBet both offer +175 moneyline payouts on Cleveland to conquer those demons. If you think a week off will help 38-year-old Ben Roethlisberger play like he did earlier in the season, BetMGM has a price of -190 on the Steelers to move forward.
Super Bowl odds
Surveying the prices at BetMGM, DraftKings, FanDuel, FOX Bet, and PointsBet, here are the best payouts on each of the remaining 14 teams to win it all:
- Kansas City: +240 (BetMGM)
- Green Bay: +550 (BetMGM)
- Buffalo: +750 (FanDuel, FOX Bet)
- New Orleans: +800 (PointsBet)
- Tampa Bay: +1100 (BetMGM, FOX Bet)
- Baltimore: +1100 (FanDuel, DraftKings, FOX Bet)
- Seattle: +1400 (PointsBet, BetMGM)
- Pittsburgh: +2500 (PointsBet, BetMGM)
- Tennessee: +3000 (PointsBet)
- Los Angeles Rams: +3300 (DraftKings)
- Indianapolis: +4100 (FanDuel)
- Cleveland: +5000 (DraftKings, PointsBet)
- Chicago: +10000 (DraftKings)
- Washington: +10000 (DraftKings, BetMGM)
Instead of (or in addition to) picking a specific team, you can lock in whoever represents the AFC to win the Super Bowl at -148 at FanDuel, while BetMGM offers the best price on the NFC representative at +135.
Choose your bets wisely, or else risk spending your Super Bowl Sunday with a bankroll-half-empty attitude.
Photo by Mitch Stringer / USA Today Sports