NFL Wild Card Round Predictions and Picks Against the Spread: We’re Backing Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, and Others

The playoffs are just around the corner, and our betting experts have made their NFL Wild Card Round predictions and best bets for each of the six matchups.

The NFL Wild Card Weekend is soon approaching, and we have a terrific slate to kick off the 2024 postseason. After having a few days to review the betting lines, we have made our top picks for each game this weekend. Let’s dive into our NFL Wild Card round predictions and best bets.

NFL Wild Card Round Predictions and Expert Picks

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Cleveland Browns vs. Houston Texans Prediction

  • Spread
    Browns -2.5
  • Moneyline
    Browns -140, Texans +120
  • Total

Soppe: Joe Flacco is coming on strong for the Browns, and after getting Week 18 off, why would we expect anything different? Flacco is 6-0 ATS for his career in playoff openers, with his team covering by an average of 19 PPG (unders are 4-2 in those six games if you’re curious).

As for this specific matchup, the story of similar matchups works the way of Cleveland as well. The Browns this season are 3-0 outright (3-0 ATS, 2-1 unders) when facing a top-10 defense in terms of yards per carry, a box the Texans check.

The Texans, on the other hand, are 0-4 outright (1-3 ATS, 3-1 unders) when facing a top-10 defense in terms of yards per play, a box the Browns check.

Pick: Browns -2.5 (-115 at DraftKings)

Rolfe: The Texans have been one of the hardest teams to get a read on this season as they have gone through the ups and downs that you would expect with a rookie head coach and rookie QB. Ultimately, they have done well to get to this point, but this has a feeling of the end of the road.

The Browns’ defense is a really strong unit, and the Texans’ defense is the more fallible of the two.

Pick: Browns -2.5 (-110 at ESPN BET)

Miami Dolphins vs. Kansas City Chiefs Prediction

  • Spread
    Chiefs -4.5
  • Moneyline
    Dolphins +180, Chiefs -215
  • Total

Soppe: This game is begging for creativity, and given some of the recent trends, I think we can leverage uncertainty into a nice ticket.

In nine games against objectively above-average QBs (I’m drawing the line at Jordan Love/Jared Goff for the sake of this research), the Chiefs have scored exactly the same number of points that they’ve allowed in first quarters (34) – they are +51 the rest of the way in first quarters.

That holds with what we’ve seen from Kansas City in postseasons during the Patrick Mahomes era: an extended feeling-out period with a late surge.

On the other side, in Miami’s past seven games, the Dolphins are +33 in first quarters and +12 in all other quarters. They’ve been the reverse version of the Chiefs – they’ve peaked early and faded late. They’ve entered games with strong schemes, but they have largely been unable to sustain their success after the scripted plays.

Pick: Dolphins +0.5 in Q1 (-118 at DraftKings) – pair it with the Chiefs moneyline, and you get +210

Rolfe: I gave my thoughts on this game earlier in the week, and things have not changed really. Even with reinforcements, the Dolphins’ pass rush will not be able to get the pressure on Patrick Mahomes that they need to.

The Chiefs’ defense has been a really good unit this year, while this Dolphins group has its flaws. Give me the better defense and the better QB at home in tough conditions.

Pick: Chiefs -4 (-115 at FanDuel)

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Buffalo Bills Prediction

  • Spread
    Bills -10
  • Moneyline
    Steelers +380, Bills -500
  • Total

Soppe: Any game in the NFL with a big spread is scary, and doing it in the playoffs against Mike Tomlin is another level of playing with fire. But is it crazy?

Since Joe Brady took over for Ken Dorsey as the trigger man of this Bills offense, Buffalo is averaging 27.0 PPG, and it hasn’t been fluky. In five of those seven games, they’ve held the ball for over 35 minutes in regulation.

This game can be simple – scoring points is much easier when you have the ball, and given the playmakers on Buffalo’s sideline, reaching that number this weekend is very much in play.

Hitting that average might be all that is needed. The Steelers are averaging 16.7 PPG this season when facing playoff teams, and while most of that came without God’s gift to recent efficiency in Mason Rudolph under center, I’m not too concerned.

Rudolph has impressed over the past three weeks, but two games came against a bottom-10 defense in a per-attempt basis, and the other came against an unmotivated Ravens defense that didn’t play to win the game.

Picks: Bills -10 (-108), Bills 1H with ML (-220 at FanDuel)

Rolfe: I am fairly confident the Bills avoid the mother of all upsets here, but winning by 10 is asking a lot. A major concern for me is the let-down element for Buffalo. Coming off the win against the Dallas Cowboys, they nearly lost to the Los Angeles Chargers the following week.

At the same time, I just do not know how effective the Steelers’ defense will be without T.J. Watt, so I am hesitant to just take the 10 points. My best play here is to tease the line to Steelers +16 and take the total up to 42 before taking the under.

Pick: Steelers +16, under 42 (-120 at DraftKings)

Green Bay Packers vs. Dallas Cowboys Prediction

  • Spread
    Cowboys -7.5
  • Moneyline
    Packers +280, Cowboys -350
  • Total

Soppe: We get a hot Packers team traveling to Dallas to face a Cowboys team that has had their moments this season looking like the best team in the league. For me, this is the matchup with the widest range of outcomes, given the peaks and valleys we’ve seen from both of these teams.

Since Halloween, the Packers have lost just one game by 8+ points, and it required Baker Mayfield to post a perfect QB Rating at Lambeau, the first-ever such performance. And even then, the Packers had the ball on Tampa Bay’s 30-yard line with a chance to get within seven points on their final possession.

The Cowboys have had their fair share of blowouts in both directions. For the season, they’ve been out-scored by 16 points when facing playoff teams. Yes, the blowouts factor into that, but the wide range of outcomes is something that I’m betting on in taking the points with an upward-trending Jordan Love-led Packers team.

Pick: Packers +7.5 (-110 at ESPN BET)

Rolfe: The Cowboys, when favored at home, has been a virtual lock this season, barring one entertaining game with the Seattle Seahawks. Dallas has the better offense, the better defense, but also has the superior ability to choke at the worst moments historically.

Despite that, I am still backing the Cowboys in what should be a high-scoring game. I just don’t want to back them giving away a touchdown, so let’s go for another teaser here.

Pick: Cowboys -1.5, over 44.5 (-120 at DraftKings)

Los Angeles Rams vs. Detroit Lions Prediction

  • Spread
    Lions -3
  • Moneyline
    Rams +140, Lions -165
  • Total

Soppe: The Matthew Stafford Bowl figures to be a fun one in a city that hasn’t had a playoff game during the lifetime of many of their featured players. The Rams elected to rest essentially everyone last week while the Lions fought for the slim chance of moving up to the 2-seed, a mission that failed and resulted in star rookie TE Sam LaPorta getting banged up.

Los Angeles has lost one game since their Week 10 bye, and it was a game in Baltimore that they were leading by five at the 2-minute warning. Detroit has played better of late, but they do own a -1.5 average point differential against winning teams this season, with the majority of those games being decided by a single possession.

This game figures to be tight, so I’ll take the points. The Lions boast the fourth-worst red-zone defense in the league this season, a potential issue in a game with the highest total of this round.

Pick: Rams +3 (-102 at DraftKings)

Rolfe: This is going to be an emotionally charged game, with the Detroit Lions hosting a rare playoff game and Matthew Stafford back in the building.

The Lions coaching staff has been getting a lot of attention for vacant head coaching roles, and with all the excitement, there is a risk of this game slipping past them.

MORE: NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Odds

The Lions made the Vikings’ offense look effective in two of the last three weeks, but their offense is also more than useful. This game screams high-scoring, so my top pick is the over, but I may well also play the Rams ML.

Pick: Over 51.5 (-110 at ESPN BET)

Philadelphia Eagles vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Prediction

  • Spread
    Eagles -3
  • Moneyline
    Eagles -150, Buccaneers +130
  • Total

Soppe: This is a spot bet for me more than it is betting on specific personnel.

  • Both are top four in percentage of opponent yards gained through the air
  • Both have a top-five opponent pass rate over expectation
  • Both are bottom-10 third-down defenses (top-10 third-down offenses)
  • Both have an above-average opponent aDOT

Those metrics point to a lot of passing and several successful drives. What more could you ask for?

The Buccaneers are the third-worst red-zone defense in the league, while the Eagles allow the fifth-most red-zone trips per game. With star power on both sidelines (most of which is tied to the passing game) and defenses that allow plenty of scoring chances, betting this total fell into my lap when researching – it wasn’t my initial lean.

The Eagles are favored and averaging 29.9 points per game this season in their victories. The Buccaneers, meanwhile, are averaging 31 ppg in their wins since Thanksgiving that have not come against the Panthers.

If those trends hold and one of these teams touches 30 points, I feel good about cashing this ticket. Over tickets have cashed 57.5% of the time during the Jalen Hurts era in Philadelphia when the Eagles are favored (third highest), a trend I like to extend through this round!

Pick: Over 44 (-105 at DraftKings)

Rolfe: I do not have a clue how to approach this game. The Eagles should be the better team, but they cannot get out of their own way. At the same time, the Buccaneers have looked totally ineffective the last two weeks. I am going to pass on Monday Night Football for now.

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