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Jan 12, 2024 6:26 pm

Wild-card Weekend Betting: Preview, Prediction and Picks

The NFL playoffs kick off Saturday and run through Monday night as the league spreads the wealth for its fans.

Speaking of spreads, that Buffalo line feels a little high. And that Rams-Lions matchup just might have the wrong team favored.

See how this primary wager developed, along with a bonus play and a player prop below.

SUNDAY HEADLINERS

Pittsburgh Steelers at Buffalo Bills (-10), 1 p.m. ET on CBS
Los Angeles Rams at Detroit Lions (-3), 8 p.m. ET on NBC

We will use adjusted lines to produce a two-leg parlay on this pair of playoff games.

First up: The case for a closer-than-expected, bad-weather matchup between flawed teams.

By now, sports-betting fans are not fooled by the Buffalo Bills. This is a flashy-looking team with middling results that needed a punt return TD to help win its Week 18 game in Miami.

Josh Allen is an elite quarterback who will throw into small windows and risk interceptions. His legs provide the extra element in his array of tools; there’s no doubt he’s entertaining to watch.

The issue is whether his Bills can maintain an adequate ground attack, which should be an easier task against the Steelers’ addled defense (all-world linebacker TJ Watt is injured and will miss Sunday’s game).

But Pittsburgh has prospered by using a cold-weather offense with running back Najee Harris’ physical presence leading the ground attack. This not only will provide some scoring opportunities, but also will help shorten the game — and lessen the chances for a blowout.

It’s been snowing all week in Buffalo and flurries are expected Sunday, but the wind gusts of 20-30 miles per hour would conspire to keep Allen somewhat grounded.

Buffalo is good enough to pound out a victory; the Steelers gained only 289 yards last week against a Baltimore Ravens team resting its top defensive players.

Against all odds, though, Mason Rudolph has quarterbacked Pittsburgh to some success the past few weeks and isn’t likely to be rattled by playoff pressure.

Pressure is something the Lions will say has no effect on their Sunday matchup with the Rams, but LA knows about Detroit QB Jared Goff.

Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris has plenty of research and options to exploit Goff’s shortcomings.

The LA offense, though, has been a shining reason for the Rams’ 7-1 record to close the regular season.

Matthew Stafford is the better QB in this matchup, Kyren Williams is the top running back and although Detroit’s Amon-Ra St. Brown is arguably the top talent at wide receiver, the Rams’ receiver room is the better of the two teams.

Cooper Kupp has seen his health and production improve, and LA has benefited from a shocking rookie season from Puka Nacua. There are just too many options for the Lions to handle.

Want trends? According to Action Network, home teams winning their last game in the regular season by 10 points or fewer — as Detroit did — stand 17-30-3 (36 percent) against the spread (ATS) in their first playoff game (trend covers the past 20 years).

The Rams have to feel as if they are playing with house money. The Lions have to feel excited just to be back in the playoffs, along with a mix of anxious desperation to please a very hungry city without a home playoff win in 30 years.

On that note, home playoff teams that failed to make the prior season’s playoffs are only 13-29 (31 percent) ATS in the first playoff game.

The bet: Two-leg parlay featuring adjusted line, the Steelers +17.5 with the Rams +7.5 (-118 at DraftKings.)

THEY SAID IT

“I so badly want to win a playoff game for this city, that hasn’t had one in so long. That’s so much more important than anything personally for me.”

–Lions quarterback Jared Goff

BONUS PLAY

Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 8:15 p.m. ET Monday.
Eagles -3, total 44

The Eagles are grasping for an explanation; the Bucs have a banged-up quarterback.

Baker Mayfield is preparing to play through ankle and rib injuries for Tampa Bay against Philadelphia, which went 1-5 to finish the season.

This Monday game provides dessert after a five-course NFL weekend meal, but it’s not terribly tasty. In fact, the play here is to fade the excitement.

A trend to spotlight comes from the laboratory at Vegas Insider, which found this game’s total to have encouraged enough “under” betting action to qualify.

The past season and a half, when 56 percent or more of the money is showing up on the “under,” the bet has a mark of 45-29 ATS (60.8 percent) to the “under.”

It’s not just sharp money, either. The number of bets (at 56 percent or better), too, brought a record of 35-22 (61.4 percent) to the under.

Both “under” stats were qualifying as of Thursday.

The bet: Eagles-Buccaneers UNDER 44.

PROP CORNER

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin will gladly try to shove Harris down the Bills’ throats.

If the wind kicks up in Buffalo, this will be an even better option. Grab the “over” 15.5 carries as soon as you can.

Prop play: Steelers running back Najee Harris “over” 15.5 carries. (-114 at FanDuel.)

–Field Level Media

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