After a tumultuous season we’ve finally reached the NFL playoffs, and with this season’s expanded format there are six Wild Card Weekend games instead of the usual four. Only one team from each conference has a bye for these playoffs — the Kansas City Chiefs and the Green Bay Packers — and everyone else will be playing to advance to the second round. As of Wednesday, DraftKings Sportsbook bettors had already taken some significant stands, and you can see below how those stands have changed as of Friday.
Wild Card Weekend No Brainer
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Betting Splits Breakdown
The most popular team of Wild Card Weekend is the Buffalo Bills, and it’s probably not a surprise given how well they treated bettors in the 2020 regular season. The Bills tied for the best ATS (against the spread) record in the NFL this year, covering in 11 of their 16 games, and they’re clearly in good form as well. The Bills enter the postseason with six consecutive wins, the last three of which were blowouts. The Indianapolis Colts had a strong season in their own right, but the hype for Indy just doesn’t come close to matching Buffalo.
The other popular spread bets for this weekend are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the Steelers are especially notable given the chaos that’s surrounded the Cleveland Browns this week. Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski won’t be on the sidelines in Pittsburgh due to a positive COVID-19 test, and DraftKings Sportsbook bettors have taken the opportunity to get their bets in on the Steelers. The line movement that’s resulted from this is fairly extreme as well, as the Steelers are now 6-point favorites as of Wednesday.
How the Lines are Moving
Pittsburgh Steelers (-3.5 to -6)
This weekend’s Steelers vs. Browns game is perhaps the most intriguing game of the year in terms of line movement, and there seems to be much more to it than just the aforementioned Browns coaching turmoil. The Steelers opened as 3.5-point favorites, but the line had actually already moved to 4.5 even before the news of Kevin Stefanski’s COVID-19 test. This can probably be attributed at least in part to the injury to defensive end Olivier Vernon, who suffered a torn Achilles in Week 17. This information was already out there when the lines first went live, however, so there’s likely even more to the initial line movement than that too.
The Steelers were drawing a disproportionate share of the handle right from the get-go, and it appears as though sharp bettors simply don’t buy that these teams are as close as the original 3.5-point line indicated. The Steelers finished the regular season as a top 10 team by DVOA while the Browns were actually in the bottom half of the league (and have the lowest rating of any playoff team). The Steelers also essentially had a bye in Week 17 while the Browns were playing for their playoff lives. It’s been a rough second half of the year for Pittsburgh after starting 11-0, but the week off seems to be buying a lot of confidence that they’ll return to something resembling their earlier season form.
In addition to their coach, the Browns will also be playing this game without their starting left guard Joel Bitonio, who tested positive for COVID-19 as well. The rest of the Browns’ tests came back negative on Wednesday, but Bitonio is yet another variable to pile on to the Steelers betting steam for this game. It seems as though just about everything is working in the Steelers’ favor leading up to this matchup, and it wouldn’t be a major surprise if this line gets to 7.0 or perhaps even higher by Sunday Night’s kickoff.
The line has remained stagnant 6.0 since Wednesday, indicating that all the news has been adequately priced in. It’s still certainly possible that more “sharp bettors” could emerge and move this line again, but most of the movement has likely already occurred.
Los Angeles Rams (+5 to +3)
The Rams had already gone from +5 to +3.5 as of Wednesday, but the movement has continued a bit further to +3. There’s still plenty of uncertainty as far as who will be the Rams quarterback on Saturday, but many bettors don’t seem to care much either way. A lot of what seems to be going on here is that the Seahawks beat the Rams convincingly at home just two weeks ago, and most bettors probably see the Seahawks as the better team resulting from that game. It should be noted that the Rams were just one-point underdogs in that recent game, however, and sharper bettors appear to viewing the 4 and 5 point spreads as strong opportunities.
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