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The format for the postseason is a little bit different. Since there are only six games, you’ll need to pick the winner against the spread and whether or not each game is going to go over or under the specified total. The higher you finish on the leaderboard, the more money you earn. Check out the contest at the DraftKings Sportsbook Pools page or by downloading the DraftKings Sportsbook app.
Let’s take a look at all six NFL contests slated for this weekend’s DraftKings Sportsbook Pro Football Wild Card Predictions Pool, including my five favorite selections.
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Los Angeles Rams @ Seattle Seahawks: O/U 42.5
The Pick: Under 42.5
This is the lowest total on the board this week, but I still think you can make the case that it’s too high.
For starters, this is a divisional game in the playoffs, which means these teams have already played on two previous occasions this season. Unsurprisingly, games in that situation tend to go under. There have been 19 previous games between divisional opponents during the postseason since 2004, and the under has gone 11-7-1 in those contests. That’s not an overwhelming sample size, but it’s good a 61.1% cover rate.
Both teams also have strong defenses. The Rams rank fourth in Football Outsiders’ defensive DVOA, and they are excellent against the run and the pass. Seattle hasn’t been as stingy on that side of the ball, but they’ve shown massive improvement recently. They rank 11th in weighted defensive DVOA, which places a heavier impact on games that occurred later in the year. The Seahawks have also allowed an average of just 16.0 points over the past eight games.
We’re also still not sure who’s going to be under center for the Rams. Jared Goff is questionable after undergoing thumb surgery, which means John Wolford could be making just the second start of his career. He wasn’t particularly impressive in his first outing, averaging just 4.89 adjusted yards per attempt.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-8.5) @ Washington Football Team
The Pick: Washington +8.5
This is another game where the injury report is going to have an impact.
The Buccaneers listed Mike Evans as questionable after he suffered a hyperextended knee last week vs. the Falcons. He’s tentatively expected to play, but there’s no guarantee that he’ll be anywhere close to full strength.
Washington is dealing with a host of injuries. Alex Smith, Terry McLaurin and Antonio Gibson were all listed as questionable, but it seems like Smith is the only one in any jeopardy of missing the game. He played through an injury last week but did not look like his usual self. He finished with an average of 3.50 adjusted yards per attempt and also tossed two interceptions.
Still, I think this is too many points to be giving Washington.
It may sound ridiculous, but my biggest concern is the start time of this contest. It’s a night game, and Tom Brady has struggled immensely to cover the spread in those situations recently. He’s 0-4 against the spread in prime-time games this season, and he failed to cover in his last two night games of 2019 as well. Brady reportedly goes to bed at 8:30 p.m. ET, so it’s possible that the late start time is not good for his circadian rhythm.
Baltimore Ravens (-3.5) @ Tennessee Titans
The Pick: Titans +3.5
This is expected to be the best game of the week. Both of these teams enter this contest in excellent form, with the Ravens winning five straight games and the Titans winning five of their past seven.
The Ravens’ offense, in particular, has been rolling after a dreadful start to the season. They’ve racked up at least 385 yards in five straight games, and they’ve averaged a stout 430.4 yards per game over that time frame.
That said, it’s important to put those results into context. It’s possible that they’ve turned things around on that side of the ball, but it’s also possible that they simply feasted on a string of weak defenses. Their past five games were against the Cowboys, Browns, Jaguars, Giants and Bengals, which is about as easy as it gets from a defensive perspective.
The Ravens draw another excellent matchup against the Titans, but it’s not as good as it looks on paper. There’s no doubt that the Titans are a disaster defensively — they rank 29th in defensive DVOA — but they are much weaker against the pass than the run. Even with their offense clicking recently, the Ravens have not been able to get their passing attack going. Jackson has averaged just 161.8 yards per game over his past five contests.
If the Titans can limit the Ravens’ rushing attack, can Jackson pick up the slack with his arm? That remains to be seen.
It’s worth noting that these teams did play back in Week 11, and the Titans were able to secure a six-point victory in Baltimore. The Titans limited the Ravens to just 129 yards on 33 carries — good for an average of just 3.91 yards per carry — and the Ravens finished with just 306 yards of total offense. The Titans racked up 423 yards of total offense, so they were in clear control of that contest.
Ultimately, I like the idea of backing the Titans as home favorites.
Baltimore Ravens @ Tennessee Titans: O/U 54.5
The Pick: Under 54.5
My main reason for selecting the Titans also leads me to the under. As impressive as the Ravens have been, I’m very skeptical that their offense will find the same success vs. the Titans.
Additionally, the Titans should struggle to move the ball vs. the Ravens. They did find plenty of success in that department in their first matchup this season, but that comes with a huge caveat. Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams were both out for that contest, and those two players are vital to the Ravens’ run defense. Missing two defensive linemen is bad in any game, but it’s especially problematic vs. Derrick Henry. With those guys back in the lineup, they should do a better job containing Henry in this contest.
This game is going to be played outdoors, which is a big deal in the playoffs. The over has gone just 60-81-3 against the spread in outdoor playoff games since 2004, which is good for a cover rate of just 42.6%. That doesn’t mean this game can’t go over, but it should make you somewhat skeptical.
I’m ultimately taking the under in all five of the outdoor playoff games this weekend – the only indoor game is the Bears vs. the Saints – and history suggests that’s the correct decision.
Cleveland Browns @ Pittsburgh Steelers (-4.5)
The Pick: Steelers -4.5
The Steelers are simply too good of a value to pass up in this Sportsbook Pool. The line is all the way up to Steelers -6 on DraftKings Sportsbook, but you can still grab them at -4.5 in this contest.
The Steelers also fit a host of betting trends.
For starters, the Browns were one of the luckiest teams in the league this season. They won 11 games but had a Pythagorean win expectation of just 7.7-8.3 this season. That means they exceeded their expected win rate by nearly 20%, and fading teams like that in the playoffs has historically been very profitable. Fading teams that have exceeded their Pythagorean win expectation by at least 10% have rewarded bettors with a 50-29-1 record against the spread since 2004. That’s good for a return on investment of +23.7%.
Additionally, the track record for quarterbacks making their first career postseason start is not good. Those quarterbacks have posted a record of 16-33-2 against the spread in their first start, and road underdogs like Baker Mayfield are just 7-9-1 against the spread. The fact that Baker is going to have to face one of the top defenses in the league will only exacerbate those issues.
Add in the fact that the Browns are going to be missing multiple players and their head coach due to various injuries and COVID-19 related issues, and the Steelers look like a slam dunk.
Here are the teams I’m targeting for the rest of the slate. Remember, we’re looking to beat the competition and climb up the leaderboard, so I’ll be looking to gain leverage on the field and fade the public in situations where I don’t see a huge edge on the spread.
Indianapolis Colts @ Buffalo Bills (-6.5)
Pick: Colts +6.5
Indianapolis Colts @ Buffalo Bills: O/U 51.5
Pick: Under 51.5
Los Angeles Rams @ Seattle Seahawks (-4.5)
Pick: Rams +4.5
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Washington Football Team: O/U 46.5
Pick: Under 46.5
Chicago Bears @ New Orleans Saints (-9.5)
Pick: Saints -9.5
Chicago Bears @ New Orleans Saints: O/U 47.5
Pick: Over 47.5
Cleveland Browns @ Pittsburgh Steelers: O/U 46.5
Pick: Under 46.5
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