After 17 weeks of the most gruelling NFL seasons in recent history, of the 32 teams who began the season with aspirations of making Super Bowl 52 in Minnesota, now only 12 remain in the race to become World Champions. Out of those 12, eight teams will battle it out this Saturday and Sunday in the National Football League’s Wildcard Weekend.
For those who do not fully understand the sport of American Football, the NFL is split into two conferences; American Football Conference (AFC) and National Football Conference (NFC). Each conference has four divisions, North, South, East and West that provides divisional winners. Two other teams from each conference qualify for the postseason due to having the best seasonal records, other than divisional winners, hence, being called Wildcard teams.
The six teams from each conference are seeded in relation to their performance over the regular season, with the first and second seeds having bye weeks, who will return to action next week to host the winners from this weekend’s action. Understand? Good.
AFC – Tennessee Titans @ Kansas City Chiefs
The early Saturday game sees the Titans make the difficult trip to Arrowhead Stadium to face the Kansas City Chiefs. Tennessee makes its first playoff appearance since 2008 this weekend, but the Chiefs on home turf will be a very difficult nut to crack. Tennessee looked destined for the postseason as potential divisional winners of the AFC South with four weeks remaining of the regular season, but three defeats on the trot left those hopes in tatters.
KC won the AFC West with a 10-6 record, but it is their potent offence that is likely to prove the defining reason why the Chiefs will emerge victorious in this one. Kansas are a best priced 1-4 with Paddy Power and Betfair Sportsbook to beat the Titans, but the best bet for the game in my view is to take the Chiefs with a –8.5 deficit in the Point Spread market, at 19/20 with SportingBet. A nine-point victory does seem quite a lot in a must-win game for both teams, but it is highly likely that the Chiefs offensive strength will be too much for the inconsistent Titans to handle.
NFC – Atlanta Falcons @ Los Angeles Rams
Of the four games this weekend, this is the one I will look forward to the most, as it has all the hallmarks of a potential classic. The Falcons went all the way to Super Bowl 51, and held a 28-3 lead over the New England Patriots, but ultimately succumbed to the Pats in a second-half collapse. The Falcons have suffered a Super Bowl hangover of sorts this season, but have sneaked into the playoffs, and will offer a stiff task to the hosting Rams.
The Rams themselves have an excellent and balanced team that is getting better year on year after some seasons in the doldrums. Some shrewd draft picks – including quarterback, Jared Goff, and star running back Todd Gurley have been stand-out performers in this campaign, and I can only see an offense dominated game here.
With home advantage, the Rams are strong favourites with the bookmakers at the best price of 41/100 with MarathonBet, while Falcons fans should flock to William Hill if they fancy a plunge at 13/5. My personal belief is that this game is difficult to call, so my advice is to take the 1/1 (even money) offer with MarathonBet on OVER 48.5 points to be scored in the game, in what might turn into an offensive shootout.
AFC – Buffalo Bills @ Jacksonville Jaguars
The Bills broke the longest unenviable streak in American sports last weekend by reaching the playoffs. Buffalo had not made the postseason since 1999, which was the longest active run of any team in the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL sports. That is the good news, the bad news is the Bills have to travel south to face the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Jags are ranked 6th on the NFL offensively, and have the league’s second-best defensive unit according to the stats – and that makes the Bills task a very difficult one in my view. The Jaguars defensive unit has made 55 sacks on the opposing quarterback this season, and even for Buffalo’s mobile QB, in Tyrod Taylor, that spells trouble. Bills star running back, LeSean McCoy suffered an ankle injury in last weeks’ win over the Miami Dolphins, and if he is unable to participate, then that would be a huge blow to Buffalo’s hopes.
The Jags are a top-price of 1-4 with MarathonBet to prevail in this game, and I personally cannot see any other outcome than a win for Jacksonville. The bet for me in this game is for Buffalo to score LESS than 14.5 total points at 1/1 (even money) with SkyBet. If the Jaguars offense can get points on the board early, you can expect their dominant defence to hold the advantage.
NFC – Carolina Panthers @ New Orleans Saints
The final game of Wildcard weekend pits two of the finest quarterbacks the NFL has to offer in Cam Newton (Carolina) against New Orleans’ Drew Brees. Both teams ended the season with equal 11-5 records in the NFC South however, the Saints prevailed as divisional winners with a superior record over the Panthers against divisional opponents.
As with the previous three games, the bookmakers feel that home advantage is key once again, The Saints can be backed at the best industry price of 19/50 with MarathonBet, while Carolina are 27/10 outsiders with MarathonBet once again. I expect this game also to be a high-scoring affair, and the even money on offer with SkyBet for over 49.5 points is a tempting one.
The bet that I’m most keen on in this contest is for former Panther wide receiver, Ted Ginn Jr to score a touchdown at any time. Ladbrokes and Coral offer 21/10 on the speedy wide-man to strike in this game, as Ginn will wish to put one over his old team.
- OVER 48.5 points in Falcons @ Rams game at Even Money with Marathon Bet
- Kansas City Chiefs –8.5 points at 19/20 with SportingBet
- Ted Ginn Jr to score a Touchdown at any time for Carolina @ New Orleans at 21/10 with Ladbrokes
- Buffalo Bills UNDER 14.5 points @ Jacksonville Jaguars at Even Money with Sky Bet.