NFL Wild Card Round Predictions and Expert Picks for the Saturday Games: Take Joe Flacco and Patrick Mahomes as Favorites?

Our NFL Wild Card Round predictions for both playoff games today include picks against the spread, player prop bets, and more.

The first day of the NFL Wild Card Round is here, and we have two matchups featuring a former Super Bowl-winning quarterback going against a first-time playoff starter at the position.

With Joe Flacco and Patrick Mahomes’ playoff experience, should you be taking them as betting favorites against C.J. Stroud and Tua Tagovailoa? We break it all down and more in our NFL Wild Card Round predictions, best bets, and more for today’s games.

NFL Wild Card Round Predictions: Saturday Games

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Browns vs. Texans Predictions

  • Spread
    Browns -2
  • Moneyline
    Browns -135, Texans +115
  • Total
    44.5

Blewis: I initially wanted to pick the Texans not only to cover but to win this game outright, but with each of their two best pass rushers dealing with injuries, I’m deciding to go in a different direction.

Based on the trends, this sets up as a great spot to take over. While the Browns had the NFL’s best defense in the regular season, they allowed 29.6 PPG on the road this season, tied with the Broncos for the most in the NFL. In Browns road games this season, the over went 8-0 and exceeded the total by an average of +15.1 PPG.

Not only is this a Browns defense that has struggled away from Cleveland, but they’re facing a quarterback in C.J. Stroud, who excelled at home this season. In eight home games, Stroud threw for 310.8 yards per game, 17 TDs, and averaged 8.94 yards per attempt.

On the other side, for Cleveland, their offense took a huge step forward since Joe Flacco became starting quarterback, averaging 28.6 PPG. Flacco has been very aggressive as a quarterback in Cleveland, with an average air yards of 9.4 per attempt, but also eight turnovers — two stats that are very favorable for taking the over.

Pick: Over 44.5 (-108 at FanDuel)

Rolfe: Here are Joe Flacco’s passing yards in his last four games; 309, 368, 374, 311. Included in that is 368 yards at an average of 8.8 yards per attempt with a passer rating of 96.1. The Texans have been good against opposing QBs in the last two weeks, but they have had their troubles against some good passing games and some surprising ones.

This season, the Texans have allowed over 300 passing yards to the Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars (Trevor Lawrence), Cincinnati Bengals (Joe Burrow), New Orleans Saints (Derek Carr), and Atlanta Falcons (Desmond Ridder). Flacco has every chance of doing that again this week to a team allowing an average of 253.4 passing yards per game to opponents.

Pick: Joe Flacco over 268.5 passing yards (-115 at ESPN BET)

Bearman: The Texans have been a great story and have a great future ahead of them. But for this game, I am going with the better and stronger team here, even on the road.

The Browns, with Joe Flacco, have taken the offense to another level, with playmakers all over the field. They have one of the top defenses in football, one that should lead them to a deep playoff run. I’ll lay the points on the road here.

Pick: Browns -2 (-110 at ESPN BET)

Soppe: Fading both backfields — or at least a piece of both — is something I rarely do because they aren’t correlated. That said, “rarely” isn’t “never,” and the numbers point strongly in this direction.

The Browns haven’t been shy about betting on Flacco to elevate their 2023 ceiling, as they have the second-highest pass rate over expectation since the veteran took the reins.

In a matchup against the second-best yards-per-carry defense in a weatherproof spot at NRG Stadium, why wouldn’t we expect Cleveland to open things up in this spot?

Kareem Hunt (battling a groin injury that cost him practice time early in the week) doesn’t have a 10-yard rush since Nov. 19, and Cleveland running backs as a whole have lost yardage on 13.1% of carries.

The veteran back hasn’t had more than 12 carries in a game in over two months, a trend he might well have to reverse in this matchup if he is going to cost us this SGP.

One for the road when it comes to Hunt:

  • Hunt: 23.7% of carries have come in the red zone
  • Jerome Ford: 7.8% of carries have come in the red zone

Those carries hold fantasy football value, but they aren’t a major concern for me when targeting yardage props.

Pick: Kareem Hunt under 24.5 rushing yards (-110 at DraftKings)

Soppe: For the season, only 39% of yards gained against the Browns have come on the ground, the fifth-lowest mark in the NFL this regular season. Devin Singletary has taken over this Houston backfield from Dameon Pierce, but are we sure he is matchup-proof to the level that sportsbooks are giving him credit for?

This season, Singletary doesn’t have a carry of at least 25 yards, making a single splash play unlikely to undo this bet.

MORE: NFL Playoff Bracket

My faith in the Browns’ front four has me thinking they are making contact with Singletary around the line of scrimmage, and with the Texans lead back averaging just 1.6 yards per carry after contact (a rate that ranks behind luminaries like Miles Sanders and Joshua Kelley), efficiency is something that I am more than happy to bet against.

Pick: Devin Singletary under 64.5 rushing yards (-115 at DraftKings)

Dolphins vs. Chiefs Predictions

  • Spread
    Chiefs -4.5
  • Moneyline
    Dolphins +190, Chiefs -225
  • Total
    43.5

Blewis: Not much has been going right for this Dolphins team lately. Not only have they lost their two best pass rushers for the season, but Raheem Mostert and Jaylen Waddle are banged up, and they’ll be playing at Arrowhead Stadium in a very cold game, as the temperature at kickoff is supposed to be around 5 degrees.

This certainly doesn’t bode well for the Dolphins, especially given their struggles away from Miami against other playoff teams during the regular season — 0-5 with an average of 16.8 points per game.

But this spread has gone up way too much for me to feel comfortable laying the Chiefs, especially when they’re still being treated as if they’re last year’s team. This is the worst Chiefs team in the Patrick Mahomes era, and all season, we have been waiting for them to flip the switch offensively, and it hasn’t happened.

Considering the weather forecast for this game and the away team’s struggles in this sort of environment, my favorite play for this game is the under. I got it earlier in the week at 44.5.

Pick: Under 44.5 (-120 at FanDuel)

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 the same number of points that they’ve allowed in first quarters (34) – they are +51 the rest of the way in first quarters.

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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 the 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 -4.5 (-110 at ESPN BET)

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