NFL Betting Guide: Wild Card Weekend
numberFire has built comprehensive algorithms to pinpoint the bets with the highest probability of returning money, whether you are betting on the total, game line, or moneyline. For those new to numberFire, we use a five-star system to show which bets you should be targeting on any given night. Stars represent how much you should risk on a wager relative to what you would normally bet.
For example, if you would usually bet $110 to win $100 on a -110 spread wager, if we give a 3-star ranking, we suggest risking three times that amount: $330 to win $300.
Using our models as a guide, let's take a look at the best bets for tonight.
Colts +6.5: 1-Star Rating out of 5
At the start of the season, I was skeptical about seeing the NFL playoffs expand to 14 teams. After seeing the Indianapolis Colts sneak in as the number seven seed, however, I have completely changed my view.
Had this been last year, the Colts would currently be sitting at home despite an 11-5 record, which would have been a travesty given the NFC has a 7-9 (and 8-8) team in the dance. The Colts got to that record with a balanced effort, scoring the 9th-most points and allowing the 10th-fewest. They allowed the second-fewest rushing yards this season, caused 25 takeaways, and had the second-best turnover differential.
They deserve a spot, and their prize for getting in is a meeting with the two-seed Buffalo Bills, who come into this game as numberFire's first-ranked offense. The Josh Allen-led club scored 501 points (second to the Green Bay Packers), just the 27th time in league history a team has scored at least 500 points in a season.
That strong offense led the Bills to records of 7-1 straight up (SU) and 6-2 against the spread (ATS) at home this season, but our model doesn't see them pulling away in this game. The Colts are 6.5-point underdogs this weekend. They lost two of their first three away games this season, but have since gone 4-1 SU and ATS, with their only loss coming to the three-seed Pittsburgh Steelers in a game the Colts controlled until the fourth quarter.
Home playoff favorites of more than six points over the past five seasons have gone 15-4 SU. They're only 9-10 ATS in those games, however. Our model expects that to move to 9-11 ATS after these teams meet tomorrow. We project a Bills win, but we give the Colts a 54.2% chance of covering the 6.5 points. We mark the bet as a one-star play.
Football Team +7.5: 3-Star Rating out of 5
It's of little surprise that the Washington Football Team are underdogs on Wild Card Weekend. Despite winning the NFC East, the team finished just 7-9, and they face an 11-5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers team who has won four straight and finished the season as the number one team in the league, according to our nERD metric.
Though on paper there is what looks to be a mismatch, our model likes the Football Team to make this a close game. Over the last five seasons, home playoff underdogs have gone just 3-4 straight up. They have, however, gone 5-2 against the spread, covering by an average of 2.4 points.
Washington went 5-2 over the last seven weeks of the season to push into the playoffs, and their two losses were both one-score games, including one to the Seattle Seahawks, another playoff team. That push should perhaps have not come as a huge surprise, as their three previous losses before that run were all by one score, as well. Their first four losses were by an average of 15.8 points. Their most recent five losses have been by 3.8.
The 5-2 stretch has been driven by strong defense. The Football Team has the second-most takeaways in the league in that span, and they've given up just 15.9 points per game in that stretch, the second-fewest allowed.
Despite their recent defensive prowess, numberFire's model doesn't see the Football Team dispelling playoff Brady this week. It does, however, see a close game. We project the Bucs to win by just 4.4 points, giving the Football Team a 63.6% chance of covering the 7.5-point spread. With an expected return of $121.45 for each $100 wagered, we mark the bet as a three-star play.