It is time to get serious about betting on the NFL with the start of this season's playoffs. And along with a full set of betting odds for the games, Bovada has served up a few special team and player props to add even more action to this weekend's Wild-Card Round of games.
Four division winners will play host to four Wild-Card teams and, in an interesting twist, all four of these road teams happen to be favored to win. The question is, does this set things up for a big weekend for the home team given that they are 11-5 both straight up and against the spread in the last four Wild-Card Rounds?
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This weekend's games also feature a wide mix of quarterbacks, ranging from playoff veterans such as Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers to AJ McCarron making his first postseason start. Bovada has released a prop for which of the eight quarterbacks will throw for the most yards in this weekend's games.
I will weigh in with my thoughts on both of these special NFL props as far as where to find the best value in the posted odds.
How Many Wild Card Teams will Win Straight up?
Bovada has set the "over/under" for this prop at two teams with a -150 moneyline for the "over". The betting odds for "under" two are set at +110.
The red-hot 11-5 Kansas City Chiefs will get things started on Saturday as 3.5-point road favorites against the 9-7 Houston Texans. The Chiefs bring an impressive 10-game winning streak into this matchup, and they opened the regular season with a 27-20 victory against Houston as one-point road favorites. Give credit to the Texans for rallying down the stretch with three straight wins, but the edge clearly goes to Kansas City as the hotter team.
Next up is an AFC North clash between the 10-6 Pittsburgh Steelers on the road against the 12-4 Cincinnati Bengals, with Pittsburgh favored by three points. The Steelers basically backed into the playoffs after suffering a stunning 20-17 loss to Baltimore in Week 16 as 11-point road favorites, but I am still giving them the slight edge in this matchup. The Bengals are still looking for their first playoff win after four straight losses in the Wild-Card Round, and they are relying heavily on AJ McCarron to help break this dubious streak as Andy Dalton's replacement at quarterback.
Sunday's action gets underway with the 10-6 Seattle Seahawks squaring off against the 11-5 Minnesota Vikings. The Seahawks have been to the last two Super Bowls, and they have been listed as six-point road favorites to take the first step towards a third straight trip. However, weather could be the great equalizer in this matchup. Game time temperatures may not get past zero on the frozen tundra of TCF Bank Stadium. Seattle cruised past Minnesota 38-7 on Dec. 6 as a three-point road favorite while holding Vikings' running back Adrian Peterson to 18 yards rushing on eight carries. I would still give the Seahawks the overall edge given their recent success in the postseason, but this game is going to be closer than most people think.
The final Wild-Card matchup pits the 10-6 Green Bay Packers against the 9-7 Washington Redskins, with the Packers slightly favored by a point. The streaking Redskins actually opened as one-point favorites after going 5-1 both SU and ATS down the stretch, but the early money on the playoff-savvy Packers has moved the spread in their favor on Bovada's current board. There has to be some genuine concern with Green Bay given recent back-to-back losses to Arizona and Minnesota in which the offense basically ground to a halt with a combined 21 points. You would have to give the slight edge to Washington on current form alone, but how much money has been lost betting against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers during his tenure with the team?
When you add it all up, the best way to go in this prop is the "over 2" despite the added risk with the moneyline odds.
Which Quarterback will have the Most Passing Yards?
Steelers' quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has the best odds in this prop at +150, followed by Aaron Rodgers and Washington's Kirk Cousins at +450. Next on the list at +700 is Seattle's Russell Wilson, and both Houston's Brian Hoyer and the Bengals' AJ McCarron are listed at +800 betting odds. The Chiefs' Alex Smith's odds to throw for the most yards in this group are set at +1600, and Minnesota's Teddy Bridgewater has the longest odds at +2500.
Going with Roethlisberger in this prop probably makes the most sense given just how prolific the Steelers' passing offense has been this season. Pittsburgh has thrown for the third-most yards in the NFL this season, and the next best total of the other seven teams in the Wild-Card Round belongs to Washington at No. 11. Add in the fact that Steelers' running back DeAngelo Williams is out for Saturday's game due to injury, and the pressure gets dialed up even higher for Big Ben moving the ball through the air.
If you are looking to stretch the odds a bit in search of some better value, I would go with Cousins at +450. He threw for a total of 4,166 yards in 17 starts. And while this works out to be an average of 260.4 yards a game, he has dialed things up himself with 984 passing yards in victories over Chicago, Buffalo and Philadelphia down the stretch. He added 176 more yards in one half of action against Dallas in Washington's season finale.
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