The NFL’s biggest wild card weekend ever gets underway on Saturday with a triple-header of games, starting with the Buffalo Bills playing host to the Indianapolis Colts and wrapping up with Tampa Bay’s trip to Washington.
Sandwiched in-between is a divisional showdown as the Los Angeles Rams head up the west coast to take on the Seattle Seahawks. These two NFC West foes split the regular season series, the Seahawks winning the most recent encounter 20-9 in Week 16.
Seattle are three-point favourites at
10/11 to win what is expected to be another low-scoring encounter, with the Rams yet to reveal who will be starting for them at quarterback.
Wolford Leading QB Race
Starting quarterback Jared Goff returned to practice this week having sat out the Week 17 win over the Arizona Cardinals following thumb surgery. Backup John Wolford stepped up in Goff’s absence, throwing for 231 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception in his first NFL start. Despite his hardly sparkling numbers, Wolford’s play-action ability could give the Rams the best chance to win with Goff having endured a dramatic decline.
The No.1 pick in the 2016 Draft hit a new low with a rotten performance in the Rams’ last game against Seattle and head coach Sean McVay has a big decision to make on whether to put Goff back in if he’s fully fit given his poor form.
Goff and the Rams’ struggles on offence have meant LA’s defence has had to step up, and they’ve done just that, allowing a combined 56 points in their last four games. That defence, led by Aaron Donald, have had great success slowing down Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, who has been sacked 11 times in two meetings with their NFC West rivals.
Wilson has thrown just one touchdown against the Rams all year, part of a steady decline of a Seahawks offence that took the NFL by storm in the opening few months. The Seahawks have averaged 22 points in the last three weeks, failing to get their big names on offence involved. DK Metcalf is one of those and having struggled twice against the Rams this season, he appeals at
20/23 to have under 60.5 receiving yards on Saturday.
The Seahawks defence has at least stepped up to bridge that gap, leading to the theory this will be another low-scoring grind with under 42.5 points at
5/6. These two don’t tend to have shootouts with 15 of the last 22 going under on the points line so best to err on the side of caution.
Bills Blitz Too Much for Colts
Swinging away from defensive football and to the complete opposite end of the spectrum, the Buffalo Bills enter the playoffs with the hottest offence in in the league, having averaged a ridiculous 47.3 points in the last three weeks of the regular season.
That offence propelled the Bills to 13-3, securing them a first home playoff game since 1995, and they are six-point favourites to take out the Indianapolis Colts at
25/28. Buffalo finished the year with six straight wins, while they have covered the handicap in their last eight outings, and all the momentum seems to be behind Josh Allen and co.
The Colts aren’t likely to get blown out like previous Buffalo opponents though, sporting a defence that ranks in the top 11 against both the run and pass. The offence has been clicking too, averaging over 28 points per game this season and in-form running-back Jonathan Taylor can take advantage of the one notable Bills weakness when it comes to stopping the run with the rookie
4/5 to score a touchdown at anytime.
With the offences looking set to dominate this one, over 51.5 total points at
Bucs Unlikely to Storm Capital
The final game of Saturday sees the Tampa Bay Buccaneers travel to Washington to face the Football Team in what looks a lopsided match-up on paper. The Bucs surged into the playoffs with a four-game winning run in which they put up plenty of points and should get the better of Washington, who became only the third team since the NFL expansion to make the post-season with a losing record.
Washington clinched the NFC East title with victory over Philadelphia in Week 17 but that is likely to be the high point of their season given their deficiencies on offense. Washington averaged just over 20 points per game this year and with fitness concerns over quarterback Alex Smith and his two best weapons, Antonio Gibson and Terry McLaurin, it is tough to see how they score enough points to win this game.
Washington’s only chance is their excellent defence, which has restricted their last seven opponents to 20 points or less. Tampa Bay haven’t had to play against too many defences as good as Washington this year and the home side can cover the +7.5 handicap at
25/27. The Bucs also operate with a top defence and it makes senses to double up the handicap result with under 44.5 total points at
*All odds correct at time of writing