NFL Wild Card Weekend Betting Guide: The Trends, Stats, And Matchups You Need To Know

The second annual NFL Super Wild Card Weekend is upon us, as we will be graced with six games over three days this weekend. The expansion of Wild Card Weekend makes for a marathon of football, particularly for those of us who enjoy indulging in playoff football betting.

Every year some friends and I take a trip out to the desert for Wild Card weekend to sit in sportsbooks for the entire day and sweat out bets with our fellow degenerates. It is, in my opinion, the best football betting weekend of the year in Vegas, and really the only better sportsbook experience is the first two weekends of March Madness. With six games, there’s a lot more prep to be done than in the past, and I figured I’d write it all out here, with trends, stats, matchups to watch, and weather forecasts for each game. Let’s go ahead and dive in.

(Ed. Note: all of the odds come via BetMGM as of Tuesday afternoon and stats are via Pro Football Reference).

Cleveland Browns (-2.5, O/U 44.5) at Houston Texans, Saturday, 4:30 pm. ET (NBC)

Weather: 72 degrees, no wind (Dome)

Betting Trends: Browns (10-6-1 ATS, 11-6 to the OVER); Texans (9-8 ATS, 11-6 to the UNDER)

Breakdown/Stats to Know: Big plays are going to play a big role in this game, as these teams were No. 2 (Houston, 8.5 yards) and No. 7 (Cleveland, 8.0 yards) in average depth of target on passes this year over the 17-game season. C.J. Stroud and Joe Flacco absolutely rip it down field, and both teams are in the bottom-7 of the league in rushing yards per attempt. They are also both in the bottom half of the NFL in third down percentage on offense (Houston 37.9% and Cleveland 31.6%). That is to say, I don’t expect a ton of long, methodical drives (especially with the pressure both of these defenses can create), and if one team can hit a couple big plays in the passing game, it will likely tilt the advantage.

The last time these two teams met, Amari Cooper set a franchise record with 265 receiving yards in a 36-22 Cleveland win. I would expect Cooper to get a lot of attention from Houston this time around, and that creates an interesting scenario for the Browns. For all the talk of Kansas City’s issues with drops, it was Cleveland that tied them for the league lead with with 40 dropped passes and a drop rate of 6.7 percent. Flacco and Cooper have created an incredible connection, but the rest of the Cleveland receiving corps is not exactly the most trustworthy. Because of that, I’d look at David Njoku yardage and receptions props because I think they’ll lean on their tight end (even if he has had some drop issues of his own). He had six catches for 44 yards and a TD in that game against the Texans even as Cooper went nuts, and Houston gave up the most catches and fourth most yards to tight ends (107 catches, 1,024 yards, 5 touchdowns) this season.

On the other side, it’s hard to take much away from their matchup with Cleveland because Stroud was not playing. They did a decent job against the Cleveland pass rush (six QB hits and three sacks, with all three coming against Case Keenum before Davis Mills came in and played well). The Texans as a team have only allowed 44 hits on the QB this year, 13th best in the league, and Stroud has been very good at living to fight another down without turning it over under pressure. The Browns will put that to the test, and striking the balance of staying out of trouble while also finding the big plays they need will be tricky against this Cleveland front. Houston certainly misses Tank Dell, but Nico Collins has stepped into the big play role as shown by his Week 18 performance against the Colts. They will have their hands full against the Cleveland defense, but based on what Stroud’s done this year, I trust the rookie to avoid mistakes and hit one or two big ones down the field.

My Card: I will almost assuredly have Houston in a teaser of some kind (probably with the Rams), because I think this is a one score game and getting them to 8.5 feels pretty good in what I think is a coin flip game because so much comes down to hitting big pass plays. I also will likely have the Under 44.5 because Houston’s been a good Under team and I think there’s a chance both teams get a little conservative trying not to make mistakes, especially if the pass rushes can be as good as advertised early on. I also really like some Njoku overs once books post those because Cleveland really likes throwing the ball, they’ll want to get it out of Flacco’s hands quickly to neutralize the pass rush, the Texans are already not good against tight ends, and Houston is going to probably shade safety help to Cooper given what he did last game, leaving some space in the middle of the field.

Miami Dolphins (+4, O/U 44) at Kansas City Chiefs, Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET (Peacock)

Weather: ~0 degrees, 10-14 mph winds

Betting Trends: Dolphins (10-7 ATS, 9-8 to the OVER); Chiefs (9-7-1 ATS, 12-5 to the UNDER)

Breakdown/Stats to Know: The Dolphins splits against playoff teams and non-playoff teams have been a topic of conversation all year. They averaged just 17.7 points per game in their six games played against teams that made the postseason and gave up 32.8 points in those games. They were held under 225 passing yards in four of those games and just generally were outclassed in most of those matchups, winning just one of them (a 22-20 battle with the Cowboys). One of those losses was against the Chiefs in Germany in which they scored 14 points and had 292 total yards of offense, finding a little life in the second half but never really finding their rhythm.

The good news for Miami is, the Chiefs also didn’t light the world on fire, as they had 267 yards of offense and won, largely, due to a wild fumble return TD to end the first half. We all also know about Kansas City’s issues offensively, as they have the second-most drops in the league, which has led to a frustrated Patrick Mahomes on a number of occasions. I think that continues this week, and I actually like a Mahomes Over 0.5 INT prop (+105). He threw 17 this year, with a lot of those being bad decisions forcing the ball into spots he shouldn’t, trying to will the passing game into working like it used to. Even with a run of injuries on their defense, Miami was second in the NFL (to KC) in pressure rate (26.2 percent) and should be able to get after Mahomes, with Jalen Ramsey and the Miami secondary looking for spots to bait him into those throws to try and steal a possession.

The weather certainly should favor a Kansas City team used to playing in the cold, while Miami has historically been bad going on the road into cold environments. Tua Tagovailoa is a rhythm passer and if footing is at all an issue after some snow and ice in KC this week, that could cause some issues in the Miami passing game with timing. The running game will be vital for both teams, and what might determine whether the Dolphins can win is Mike McDaniel being patient enough to stick with running the ball. He got away from that some against Buffalo in Week 18 after a strong start on the ground, and I think he’s going to have be willing to have a really run-heavy approach in this one, especially if Raheem Mostert is able to go. The Chiefs weren’t a great run defense this year (4.5 yards per carry) and if Miami doesn’t get antsy trying to create a big play in the passing game, I think they could actually dictate the pace of this game by controlling it on the ground.

My Card: I want nothing to do with either side in this game because I just don’t trust either team in this spot. I will probably have the Under because in this weather I think it both teams go ground heavy. I will say, the best bet might be to hope for some great script drives from both teams and take a live Under after the first two possessions, because I do think both teams are going to really try to dial up their best stuff to start the game and get on the board before it settles into a slog. Otherwise, I might just take both quarterbacks to go under on yards (Tua U246.5 and Mahomes U251.5) because of the weather and, just generally, how they’ve trended in the passing game against good opponents. I’ll also have the Mahomes INT prop because I do see a lot of potential for him to get frustrated and force something into coverage trying to make something happen.

Pittsburgh Steelers (+10, O/U 36.5) at Buffalo Bills, Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET (CBS)

Weather: Mid-to-High 30s, Rain and Snow, 25+ mph winds

Betting Trends: Steelers (10-7 ATS, 11-6 to the UNDER); Bills (7-10 ATS, 11-6 to the UNDER)

Breakdown/Stats to Know: Football weather, baby. This is going to be hideous, and I think that might help the Steelers? No one loves to muck up a game more than Mike Tomlin, and he would love nothing more than to get into a 3 yards per carry duel with the Bills here. There are no props up right now, but if they post a Mason Rudolph passing yards number that starts with a 2, take the under. He’s helped them open things up in the passing game and has hit big plays to George Pickens, but that’s not happening in this weather. The Bills didn’t see a lot of teams running against them this year (409 rushing attempts against was the fourth fewest in the NFL), but they did allow 4.6 yards per carry, so there could be some opportunities for Jaylen Warren and Najee Harris to ball control this thing. Pittsburgh’s entire goal in this game will be to limit possessions and try to force Josh Allen into making mistakes, and honestly it’s not a bad gameplan.

The good news for the Bills is that Allen has been tremendous down the stretch of the season and the Steelers will be without T.J. Watt. Pittsburgh has one (1) win outright without Watt and are 4-6-1 against the spread without his services. He would be their best bet at pressuring Allen into a mistake, but given the Bills have struggled at times with the interior of their line, Cam Heyward will be lurking trying to do the same from the inside. Buffalo loves pushing the ball downfield — 8.7 air yards per attempt is third in the NFL — and Allen is one of the few QBs capable of driving the ball through bad weather. The problem comes if he does that too much, but I do think there will be some opportunities to attack 1-on-1 coverage against Stefon Diggs and take advantage of Pittsburgh being a bit overly aggressive crowding the box and trying to manufacture pressure without Watt. If they can hit a couple big pass plays, I have a really hard time seeing how Pittsburgh matches that. If they can’t, or even worse, if Allen makes a couple poor decisions down the field, that is how the Steelers make things sweaty.

There are no stats you can find that will make you feel good about Pittsburgh winning, but that hasn’t stopped them before. Tomlin lives for this sort of thing and a 10-point spread in a game with a 36.5 point total is pretty wild, even if the likelihood of Pittsburgh putting up more than 14 points is extremely low. If you are a Steelers believer, I’d go ahead and coordinate +10 and the Under in a parlay. I don’t see where they score a lot, but if they’re going to cover it’s because this thing is a 17-13 slog. On the Bills side, laying 10 is really hard for me to do in this weather and I’d be much more inclined to just take the Pittsburgh team total under 15.5 (even if it’s got some wild juice).

My Card: I might just throw a small Steelers/Under parlay in just to feel alive, even if I’m not crazy confident in it, and then look at player props once they get posted. If they dare put carries props up, I’ll be all over Najee Harris’ over on carries, but I’m not holding my breath there. And then I’ll also probably take Rudolph under anything above 175.

Green Bay Packers (+7.5, O/U 50.5) at Dallas Cowboys, Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET (FOX)

Weather: 72 degrees, no wind (Dome)

Betting Trends: Packers (9-8 ATS, 10-7 to the OVER), Cowboys (10-7 ATS, 9-8 to the OVER)

Breakdown/Stats to Know: The Cowboys were famously a dominant team at home and a mediocre team on the road this season, so unsurprisingly they get a healthy bump here on this line with it being a home game. Dallas has been carried by its passing attack with Dak Prescott and CeeDee Lamb forming one of the most formidable QB-WR combos in the league, especially over the back half of the year when the offense really shifted towards Lamb more. On the other side, the Packers were a very successful passing offense as Jordan Love emerged as a quality starter with star upside in his first season under center, but what really sets these teams apart is the defensive side of the ball.

In a game that figures to see the ball get put up in the air a lot, one thing that could make life difficult for Green Bay is how rarely they took the ball away in the passing game compared to Dallas. The Packers had 7 INTs on the season and had an interception rate of 1.1%, both bottom three figures in the league, compared to 17 INTs and a 3.3% INT rate for the Cowboys (8th and 5th in the NFL this year, respectively). That puts a lot more pressure on Love to be precise compared to Prescott, whose struggles in big games in the past have often been caused due to turnovers. If the Packers cannot turn the Cowboys over, the margin for error gets razor slim as an underdog. The real battle figures to be at the line of scrimmage, where Green Bay was good at creating pressure (23.9% pressure rate) but Dallas was the fifth best in pressure rate allowed (16.6%). Plain and simple, if Prescott has time, the Packers are in trouble.

On the other side, Love has been really good and I think he actually will hold up his end of the bargain pretty well, but I do not think they can keep pace over 60 minutes with the defense being as mediocre as it’s been all season. I will be interested to see if Green Bay can run the ball as well as they have of late, with Aaron Jones going for 20+ carries and 111+ yards in the last three games. Dallas is also the surest tackling team in the league with a NFL-best 55 missed tackles on the season, meaning its difficult to create big plays in the run game against them. I believe they’ll certainly start with a commitment to the run game in an effort to shorten the game, but the main concern is if Dallas is able to put up points early, they might have to abandon that plan sooner than would be ideal.

My Card: My initial thought was Green Bay, but I’m just not sure this is the right spot for fading Dallas the more I look into the matchup, especially with how the Packers just do not force turnovers in the passing game. I might take a look at Dallas in a teaser with Houston or L.A., but I don’t love anything on the side or total. For props, I’ll have Jake Ferguson O40.5 yards, as he’s gone over that in 6 of the last 7 games, and will keep an eye on Aaron Jones rushing yards whenever that goes up.

Los Angeles Rams (+3, O/U 51.1) at Detroit Lions, Sunday, 8:15 p.m. ET (NBC)

Weather: 72 degrees, no wind (Dome)

Betting Trends: Rams (10-6-1 ATS, 9-8 to the OVER); Lions (12-5 ATS, 11-6 to the OVER)

Breakdown/Stats to Know: The Lions were one of the great stories of this NFL season, so it’s fitting they get the big storyline spot of Wild Card weekend with Matthew Stafford’s return to Detroit. While the quarterback play will dominate the conversation, I’m more interested in the rushing attacks on both sides. Los Angeles was 8-2 when they rushed for 100 yards for more and 2-5 when they didn’t. Those kinds of stats are always noisy, but they performed better in games where they could be balanced and were able to move the ball on the ground — which happened a lot more in the back half of the season when they got hot. Kyren Williams is the focal point of their rushing attack, and he’ll be critical against a Detroit team that was solid (3.7 yards per attempt) against the run this year. The Lions were very good at creating pressure this year (3rd in the NFL at 26% pressure rate), but if L.A. is able to run the ball, that’ll open up the play action passing game that just kills teams.

For the Lions, they finished the year fifth in rushing yards (2,311) and were tops in the league in yards per carry after contact (2.0). David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs are a dynamic combo, and L.A. is going to have stay disciplined in their gaps and not miss tackles (103 this year) to avoid letting the Lions pick up the chunk plays they thrive on. Jared Goff will need that run threat to come through, as no team relied on play action more than Detroit, which racked up the most play action passing yards in the NFL this season.

I think both of these teams profile pretty similarly, with an emphasis on the running game and hunting big plays off play action. On defense, neither is considered elite, but both are solid and this figures to come down to mistake avoidance. The Rams had the most defensive penalty yards of any team in the NFL this season, which makes trusting them a bit scary. That said, Los Angeles was also a better red zone defense (54.5% touchdown rate) than Detroit (66% touchdown rate), and with both offenses being top-4 in the NFL in red zone scoring, that’s of considerable importance.

My Card: I will have the Rams in a teaser, that’s a lock because I think this is going to be a real coin flip game. That also means I probably will sprinkle a little on Rams money line, because I think this thing’s one possession throughout and will take plus money (especially with the public pretty solidly on Detroit). On the props side, I’ll have Kyren Williams O83.5 rushing yards, as he hit that in each of the last seven games, and David Montgomery O55.5 rushing yards, as he’s hit that in 7 of his last 9 (and one of the misses was a 10 carry day in Week 18) and I think Detroit will lean on the vet they trust more in a playoff game.

Philadelphia Eagles (-3, O/U 43.5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET (ESPN/ABC)

Weather: ~65 degrees, 7-10 mph winds, possible rain

Betting Trends: Eagles (7-8-2 ATS, 9-8 to the OVER); Bucs (11-6 ATS, 11-6 to the UNDER)

Breakdown/Stats to Know: The worst vibes game of the weekend is our Monday Night finale in Tampa. The Eagles limped to the finish line, getting blasted by the Giants in their last outing, while the Bucs final performance was a 9-0 win over the worst team in the league. Both of these teams are banged up, with AJ Brown suffering a knee injury (with his status up in the air) and Jalen Hurts injuring his middle finger against the Giants, while Baker Mayfield was not moving well for most of the day in Carolina, limping off of the field after most drives.

As such, it’s hard to have a lot of confidence in either of these teams. We know there’s a level the Eagles can reach that Tampa cannot, but we also haven’t seen Philly do that in more than a month. On defense, Philly hasn’t stopped anyone in weeks it feels like, and they have the third worst red zone touchdown percentage of any defense in the NFL (66.1%), while the Bucs have the third best (42.6%). That feels important in a game that might have limited scoring opportunities. Part of that is Tampa struggling against the pass but being quite good against the run, and if Brown can’t go, Philly’s ability to take advantage of the Bucs pass defense will be hindered considerably.

My Card: I don’t like it, but I am probably going to have Tampa. The Eagles vibes are awful and I do not trust that defense to stop anyone, even a banged up Baker Mayfield. I think the Bucs will hang around and keep this close, and I just cannot justify taking this Philly team the way they have been playing as a road favorite. There are no props up right now because no one knows who will be playing, but I’ll be looking at some Rachaad White overs as the Eagles have given up 100 yards rushing in 8 straight games and Tampa relies on him very heavily in the run game.