The Wild Card round is just a few days away, and the first injury reports will start arriving early Tuesday afternoon. The AFC wild card games are both set for Saturday, which means we’ll get the first practice participation reports for the Patriots, Titans, Texans, and Bills on Tuesday. The NFC wild card games are both set for Sunday, which means we’ll get the first practice participation reports for the Saints, Vikings, Eagles, and Seahawks on Wednesday.
The injury reports are critical to making final picks, but before that information arrives, it’s helpful to set a baseline for making straight up picks and picks against the spread. These are early leans, with plenty of room to re-consider over the next few days.
Bills vs. Texans (-2.5, 42.5)
Even as the league moves more and more towards offense, a strong defense can still take a team a long way. The Bills get inconsistent play from Josh Allen, but that defense has been critical to their impressive season. DeShaun Watson is the kind of quarterback who can put a team on his back, but I lean Bills to not only cover, but win this game outright. If Buffalo does win, it will be a strong defensive effort, so I lean under on the point total.
Titans vs. Patriots (-4.5, 43.5)
The Patriots blew a first round bye with their Week 17 loss to the Miami Dolphins, and they draw a dangerous Titans squad in the Wild Card round. The Patriots are 20-3 straight up and 13-9-1 against the spread in home playoff games in the Brady/Belichick era. I think they probably get the win, but I’m going to take the points with Titans in what should be a fun close game. The A.J. Brown-Stephon Gilmore matchup will be fascinating to watch. I’m leaning over with the key number of 44 still in play.
Vikings vs. Saints (-8, 48)
The Vikings were able to rest their starters in Week 17, with the No. 6 seed locked in, while the Saints played tough and blew out the Panthers in hopes of moving beyond the three seed. New Orleans is the most impressive team in the Wild Card round, and is getting better Super Bowl odds than the Packers — even as the Packers hold a first round bye. I think we see Kirk Cousins melt in the spotlight and the Saints roll in this one. I’d lean over the point total with some garbage time points taking care of that.
Seahawks vs. Eagles (+2, 46)
Philadelphia won four straight NFC East games to clinch the division, but that’s not saying a lot. This line opened at Eagles -3, but quickly swung the other way and the Seahawks are favored against an injury-riddled Eagles team. Home field is valuable, and the Seahawks have their own injury issues, but I’m laying the points with Russell Wilson. I lean over, but am not quite sure yet.