NFL

Game Plan: NFL Super Wild Card Weekend Preview and Best Bets

Six NFL playoff games over three days. Get ready with our big preview.

January 9, 2024

After four months, we’ve made it. We’ve endured controversial referee calls, the Kelce-Swift media firestorm, sad quarterback carousels, and so much more. The playoffs are here!

It’s time for the NFL’s Super Wild Card Weekend, a football fiesta spanning three days and six games, from Saturday afternoon through Monday night. The top-seeded Ravens and 49ers are waiting with byes, but the other 12 playoff teams are in action.

Here are the top spread, moneyline and/or point total bets found on Tipico Sportsbook, as well as some notable statistical tidbits that could impact the weekend’s results.

Browns at Texans (Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET)

Best Bet: Browns moneyline (-145)

C.J. Stroud has already proven to be a franchise QB by leading the 10-7 Texans to the AFC South Division title in his rookie season, but the 11-6 Browns have a superior roster from top to bottom. Cleveland finished with the fewest scrimmage yards allowed per game (270.2), while Houston’s defense ranked in the middle of the pack (330.7).

Stroud is 22 years old and Cleveland counterpart Joe Flacco is nearly 39, but Flacco racked up a 4-1 record as the team’s fourth starting QB with 1,616 yards passing — and multiple touchdown passes in all five starts.

Taking away the splashy plays to keep the Houston crowd quiet will be key to Cleveland’s chances.

The Texans are banged up at wide receiver, as Noah Brown (back) and Robert Woods (hip) both sat out the must-win Week 18 game against the Colts, and exciting rookie Tank Dell hit the IR back in November. Houston won 23-19, partly because Colts coach Shane Steichen’s subbed out star running back Jonathan Taylor for fourth-stringer Tyler Goodson, who failed to catch a pass on a late 4th-and-1 deep inside Houston territory.

Star pass rusher Myles Garrett and CB Denzel Ward should help the Browns slow down Houston’s passing game. Taking away the splashy plays to keep the Houston crowd quiet will be key to Cleveland’s chances.

Dolphins at Chiefs (Saturday, 8 p.m.)

Best Bet: Chiefs -3.5 (-108)

The Chiefs survived down years from Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce and had some of the worst wide receiver play in the league — especially before rookie Rashee Rice’s late-season emergence — but still finished 11-6. The Dolphins were 11-6 as well, but were 1-5 with a -91-point differential against teams that made the playoffs. Miami’s speedy team is built for nice weather, but KC is expected to get a snowstorm this week followed by a cold front.

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Mahomes is 9-1 in his playoff career at Arrowhead Stadium, and this is probably the best defense he has had to support him. The Chiefs allowed 17.3 points per game, second fewest behind Baltimore’s 16.5. Tyreek Hill will do all he can to help the Dolphins beat his former team, but Miami’s other playmakers are banged up — RB Raheem Mostert (knee/ankle) and WR Jaylen Waddle (ankle) both sat out the Week 18 loss to the Bills.

The Chiefs beat the Dolphins by a touchdown in Germany during the regular season, and the gap could be even larger with KC’s home-field advantage.

Steelers at Bills (Sunday, 1 p.m.)

Best Bet: Steelers +10 (-110)

These two teams have the longest winning streaks among AFC playoff teams – Buffalo with five straight and Pittsburgh three. The Bills are the clear favorites, especially with perennial DPOY candidate T.J. Watt (knee) likely unavailable for the Steelers.

But covering a 10-point spread could be too much to ask. Since Week 5, the Bills have won by more than seven points only twice. Meanwhile, the Steelers have found new life on offense since inserting Mason Rudolph under center, averaging 27 PPG while going 3-0.

Pittsburgh likely will try to shorten the game with a run-heavy approach and win the turnover battle.

Pittsburgh likely will try to shorten the game with a run-heavy approach and win the turnover battle. Luckily for the Steelers, their running game heated up down the stretch, while Bills quarterback Josh Allen is both a touchdown and turnover machine. Najee Harris had two straight 100-yard games – and three touchdowns total – in weeks 17 and 18.

Allen posted 44 combined passing and rushing TDs for Buffalo but also threw 18 interceptions and fumbled seven times, losing four.

Packers at Cowboys (Sunday, 4:30 p.m.)

Best Bet: Cowboys -7.5 (-108)

The Cowboys had some of the NFL’s widest home/road splits, going 8-0 at home while averaging 37.4 PPG and giving up 15.9 PPG. Dallas’ offense excels at AT&T Stadium, where the crowd quiets down enough when the Cowboys have the ball for Dak Prescott to yell his now-signature “Yeah, here we go!” pre-snap. That cadence is used to help clue in the offense on the upcoming play and dictate the snap count.

Post-snap, the Prescott to CeeDee Lamb connection has been on fire all season. Prescott led the league with 36 passing TDs, while Lamb led the league with 135 receptions. He finished second to Hill with 1,749 receiving yards — just one receiving TD back of the league lead shared by Hill and Mike Evans.

While quarterback Jordan Love making the playoffs in his first year as a starter is a nice story, this game should be one-way traffic in Dallas’ favor.

While Dallas went 12-5 to claim the No. 2 seed, Green Bay was lucky to make the postseason at 9-8. The Packers beat up on the weak NFC North, going a combined 3-1 against the Vikings and Bears, who both finished 7-10. Green Bay also were fortunate to face the Rams while Matthew Stafford was injured, and they were down 17-0 to the Saints before Derek Carr’s injury helped propel a Packers comeback.

Take away those two injuries and the Packers would likely join the Vikings and Bears at 7-10. While quarterback Jordan Love making the playoffs in his first year as a starter is a nice story, this game should be one-way traffic in Dallas’ favor.

Rams at Lions (Sunday, 8 p.m.)

Best Bet: Rams moneyline (+145)

What a time for Matthew Strafford’s first visit back to Ford Field. After spending 12 years in Detroit, Stafford was traded to the Rams prior to the 2021 season for a package of draft picks and Jared Goff. Stafford won a Super Bowl in his first year with Los Angeles, and he has the Rams back in the playoffs this year at 10-7.

With Stafford slinging it, coach Sean McVay calling the plays, record-setting rookie Puka Nacua joining Cooper Kupp as a threat at WR, Kyren Williams breaking out as one of the NFL’s best running backs, and Aaron Donald still causing plenty of interior pressure at age 32, the Rams have playmakers up and down the roster. They are also playing their best football, having won seven of their last eight games.

…the loss of LaPorta could prove costly for a franchise searching for its first playoff win since the 1991 season.

The Lions (12-5) have home-field advantage, but their pursuit of the 12th win came at a cost, as standout rookie tight end Sam LaPorta hurt his knee in the season finale and is unlikely to play Sunday. Detroit still has an elite backfield duo with David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs, plus a star pass catcher for Goff to throw to in Amon-Ra St. Brown. But the loss of LaPorta could prove costly for a franchise searching for its first playoff win since the 1991 season.

Gibbs and Montgomery combined for 24 scrimmage touchdowns in the regular season, while the Rams’ seven TDs allowed to RBs were tied with the Buccaneers for the fewest in the NFL, so that matchup could be the key.

Eagles at Buccaneers (Monday, 8:15 p.m.)

Best Bet: Eagles -2.5 (-118)

The Buccaneers are a trendy upset pick, given Philadelphia’s woeful play down the stretch, but the Eagles have a substantial edge in talent. Both rosters are full of veterans with plenty of playoff experience, though one player who notably doesn’t have much of that is Buccaneers quarterback Baker Mayfield, with his 1-1 career playoff record.

Jalen Hurts is 2-2 in the postseason, with his introduction to playoff football coming in a January 2022 loss to Tom Brady’s Buccaneers. This year’s Tampa Bay team has a much less impressive supporting cast than that one did, though the elite wide receiver duo of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin is still around. The Bucs won the NFC South at 9-8, but their regular season included a 25-11 home loss to the Eagles in Week 3.

…Philly still might be able to flip the switch.

That regular-season clash came as part of Philadelphia’s 10-1 start, which seems like a distant memory now, as the Eagles went 1-5 down the stretch to finish at 11-6.

Nonetheless, Philly still might be able to flip the switch. There are some questions about the availability of star wide receivers A.J. Brown (knee) and DeVonta Smith (ankle). If both can play without limitations, they are likely to feast on a Buccaneers secondary that allowed 3,043 yards to wide receivers – fourth-most in the league.

Then again, the same should be true for Evans and Godwin against an Eagles secondary that surrendered 3,125 yards to WRs, which was second-most in the NFL.

These teams have plenty of similarities, but Philadelphia has a superior offensive line and quarterback, which should make the difference.

Sasha Yodashkin
Sasha Yodashkin has been contributing NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB and Tennis content to RotoWire since 2015, with an emphasis on DFS. He is a huge New York sports fan who has been playing fantasy sports since middle school.
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