NFL Betting Preview: What Are the Best Wild Card Bets on Sunday?
All three Sunday games feature rematches from the regular season as the Baltimore Ravens face the Tennessee Titans, the Chicago Bears travel to battle the New Orleans Saints, and the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers do battle for the third time this campaign.
Let's check out our algorithms for the day's best bets and player props.
The Ravens will look to exorcise some demons on Sunday, having lost to the Titans last year in the Divisional Round of the playoffs as well as in Week 11 of this season. That's why I was a bit surprised to see the visiting Ravens favored by 3.0 points on FanDuel Sportsbook.
Despite the recent history, 53% of the bets and 59% of the money is backing Baltimore, per our oddsFire betting tool, though the line is down from an opening -4.0. Also, 59% of the bets are choosing the Titans' moneyline at +146, while 51% of the money is taking the Ravens -174. The point total opened at a lofty 54.5 and has held steady, but that hasn't stopped the bets on the over, with 69% of the bets and 74% of the money taking the over.
Matchup-wise, the Ravens' offense ranks eighth in the NFL with 0.16 Adjusted Net Expected Points per play (NEP), and they will face a Titans defense that sits 26th overall, allowing 0.16 Adjusted Defensive NEP per play. We know the Ravens will run the ball, but the passing-game matchup is intriguing. The Ravens are ranked 15th in the league with 0.16 Adjusted Passing NEP per drop back while the Titans' D has been gashed through the air, ranking 27th with 0.22 Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per drop back. Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews could be the primary beneficiaries of this matchup.
When the Titans have the ball, we will have a matchup of the NFL's third-best offense against the sixth-best defense. Both teams are equally impressive in the run game and pass game, so this clash may come down to game script and the Titans' gameplan. We know the offense will funnel through Derrick Henry and A.J. Brown, but Corey Davis has become the clear third option in this efficient passing game. Though Davis is a bit boom or bust, he could be in for a big game if this hits the over.
This game has some of the best bets of the day, per our numbers. Our algorithm gives the Titans a 53% chance to win outright. That means we like the Titans at +3.0, but we especially like the Titans' moneyline with a 30% projected return on investment (ROI). We also see some value on the under, with an 11% projected ROI. One same-game parlay I like is a Davis touchdown (+280) parlayed with the over on Ryan Tannehill's passing yards prop (240.5). Both seem attainable in a shootout, and the combination pays out +510.
After backing into the playoffs at 8-8, the Bears take on New Orleans for a rematch of a Week 8 Saints overtime victory. That game was in Chicago, however, while this matchup will take place in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints have held firm as 9.5-point favorites, with 57% of the bets and 63% of the money taking the home team. Even at -500, bettors are hammering the Saints moneyline, with 82% of the bets and 92% of the money on their side. The point total dropped down from a 48-point open to the current 47.5 line, and 64% of the bets and 65% of the money are taking the over.
Our rankings support this as being a clear mismatch, especially when the Bears have the ball. Chicago ranks 27th in the NFL offensively, with their strongest method of attack being their rushing game. Unfortunately, with just 0.03 Adjusted Rushing NEP per attempt on the ground, Chicago's offense still ranks just 21st in the league as a run unit and faces a Saints D that sits fifth overall and is ninth-best at defending the run.
David Montgomery has been on a roll with three 100-yard rushing games in the past six weeks, but those six games have come against six rush defenses ranking 21st or worse by our numbers. Montgomery won't find as much room this week, and with wide receiver Darnell Mooney nursing an ankle injury, the passing game could be at less than full strength, as well.
Drew Brees and the Saints rank as the league's seventh-best offense, and they will match up against a Bears D that ranks eighth overall in what will be the game's marquee battle. New Orleans -- maybe surprisingly -- has the second-ranked rushing attack with 0.16 Adjusted Rushing NEP per carry, and while Taysom Hill's 0.24 Rushing NEP per carry on 87 attempts certainly boosts that number, both Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray have provided efficient production, as well. The Saints should have Kamara back from the COVID-19 list, and receiver Michael Thomas should return, as well.
Our algorithm hands the Saints a 78% chance to win outright, which gives the Bears moneyline a very slight 5% projected ROI. We don't see much value in the spread, either, and the under on 47.5 provides a tiny 5% projected ROI, as well, so the props are the way to go in this one.
I surprisingly like the over on Murray's rushing yards (35.5) for several reasons. He's topped that number in nine games this year, and with Kamara returning from COVID, there is always a chance Murray sees some extra work -- especially if New Orleans has a sizable lead late. You could parlay that over with a Murray touchdown (+150) for a +229 payout. Hill at +240 to score a touchdown is another bet I am targeting, as he's scored a rushing touchdown in each of the past three weeks.
While the Browns and Steelers split their regular-season showdowns, last week's Browns victory came against Mason Rudolph as opposed to Ben Roethlisberger, and the 24-22 win was less than decisive. With Roethlisberger back this week, Pittsburgh opened as 4.0-point favorites but have been bet up to 6.5, likely due to the COVID-19 situation in Cleveland as they will be without head coach Kevin Stefanski.
Money continues to come in on the Steelers, as 70% of the bets and 77% of the money is sticking with them despite the line movement. At -286, 65% of the bets and 81% of the money is coming in on the Pittsburgh moneyline. And the point total, after opening at 47.0, has actually jumped to 47.5 despite the Browns being without their play-caller, and 56% of the bets and 52% of the money is taking the over.
Cleveland's 10th-ranked offense (0.14 Adjusted NEP per play) will face off against the league's 2nd-best defense in what might be the game's deciding matchup. Pittsburgh ranks first defending the pass and 12th against the run, so there is a glimmer of hope that the Browns can establish their 10th-ranked rushing attack.
While Cleveland has understandably featured a rotation at running back to keep everyone fresh, this might be the week to unleash Nick Chubb. Chubb has produced 0.17 Rushing NEP per carry on 190 attempts, while Kareem Hunt has produced -0.01 Rushing NEP per carry on a similar 198 attempts. Chubb has averaged 54% of the snaps over the past three weeks with Hunt taking 46%, but it wouldn't be surprising to see Chubb's snaps rise if the Browns can stay within striking distance.
The Steelers bring the league's 18th-ranked offense into a matchup with the 27th-ranked Browns' defense, and it looks pretty clear that the Steelers will try to move the ball through the air. Pittsburgh's running game ranks 31st in the league with -0.03 Adjusted Rushing NEP per carry, and their 18th-ranked passing offense will face off against the league's fourth-worst passing D in Cleveland.
From an efficiency standpoint, Chase Claypool has been the Steelers' best wideout, providing a downfield element they desperately need while recording a team-high 0.79 Reception NEP per target. Diontae Johnson is always a good bet for volume, racking up double-digit targets in 10 games this year, though surpassing 100 yards only twice. While JuJu Smith-Schuster still sees strong usage, he has just four games of double-digit targets and no 100-yard games on the season.
Our algorithm gives the Steelers a 69% chance to win outright, and we don't see much advantage on the moneyline on either side. Similarly, we don't see meaningful value on the spread, making our strongest bet the over on the line 47.5, which we give a 11.8% projected ROI.
For prop bets, I like tight end Austin Hooper +330 to score a touchdown, as he has scored in three of the past five games, including last week against the Steelers. I also like the over on Hooper's receiving yards prop (33.5) as he's topped that in both games versus Pittsburgh. You could parlay those two for a +463 payout. I also see value in Chubb's rushing prop of 70.5 yards as we project him for 85.0 , so give me the over there. For the Steelers, I'm wary to bet their yardage totals as this can be such a dink-and-dunk offense. With that said, Johnson over 63.5 receiving yards should be a solid bet.