2022 NFL Wildcard Weekend Previews and Betting Picks
2022 NFL Wildcard Weekend Betting Previews
The NFL regular season reached a thrilling climax on Sunday. As if the dramatic finish in the NFC wasn’t enough, the Raiders and Chargers served up an absolute barnstormer of an AFC match on Sunday Night Football with Carr’s Raiders eventually prevailing thanks to a last gasp field goal in overtime. So, the matchups for 2022 NFL Wildcard Weekend have been confirmed and it is a stellar lineup. Check out who Dave Stevos’ thinks will progress to the next round in his betting preview below.
2022 NFL Wildcard Weekend
Saturday: 21.35 GMT – Las Vegas Raiders (10-7) @ Cincinnati Bengals (10-7)
The first Wildcard match this weekend sees the Las Vegas Raiders take on the Cincinnati Bengals at the Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals won the AFC South Division with a record of 10-7. The Raiders won an epic match against the Los Angeles Raiders on Sunday Night to lock up the no.5 seed spot and 2nd place in the AFC West. There is very little between these two teams on paper but that is not reflected in the gameline odds. The Bengals are -6.5 points favourites and they are 4/11 to win the match. The Raiders can be backed at odds of 47/20.
The recent H2H between these teams has been dominated by the Bengals. They have won four of the last five meetings, including a 32-13 win in Las Vegas back in November. However, that match came when the Raiders were in turmoil. Jon Gruden was sacked a couple of weeks before it and they also lost wide receiver Henry Ruggs III after he was involved in a fatal car accident. In November/December the Raiders went 1-6, including losses against Washington and the decidedly average NY Giants.
Nothing In It
When you look at the stats, these teams are extremely closely matched. Joe Burrow has thrown for 4,611 yards and his team have gained an NFL leading 8.7 yards per pass attempt. Carr has thrown for 4,804 yards and the Raiders have gained 7.7 yards per passing play. Neither team is particularly effective on the ground with the Bengals averaging 4.0 yards per carry in comparison to the Raiders 3.9 yards per carry.
So, this match could be decided by which defense is better at stopping the aerial attack. The Raiders have a clear edge in this area. They are 6th best in terms of yards allowed per pass (6.6 yards), allowing 3789 total passing yards this season. The Bengals, on the other hand, rank 23rd, allowing 7.2 yards and 4222 in total.
Raiders Solid on The Road
Another worry for the Bengals is their hometown record. They went 5-4 at home (compared to 5-3 away), including heavy defeats against the Browns and the Steelers. The Raiders have a 5-3 record on the road and they have beaten the likes of the Steelers, Cowboys, Colts and Browns on their travels. Joe Burrow is undeniably a talented QB but I think Derek Carr is underrated and there is no way the Raiders should be +6.5 dogs. At the odds, the Raiders are worth backing on the gameline at odds of 47/20.
2022 NFL Wildcard Weekend Tip: Las Vegas Raiders to win @ 47/20 (Hills)
Sunday: 01.15 GMT – New England Patriots (10-7) @ Buffalo Bills (11-6)
This all AFC East showdown promises to be a superb contest. Bill Belichick takes his 10-7 Patriots to the Highmark Stadium to take on the highly touted Buffalo Bills. This will be the third meeting between these two big rivals this season and it is 1-1, with both wins for either team coming on the road. The Bills won 33-21 in New England on Boxing Day, while the Patriots ran out 14-10 winners in Buffalo on December 6.
Since Tom Brady parted ways with the Pats, the Bills have won three of the four meetings between these teams. They topped the division and they have been at the top of many expert’s power rankings throughout the season. However, I am not convinced by the Bills. Yes, Josh Allen is a class act on his day but you just cannot be 100% confident in a team that has lost to the Jaguars, Colts and Steelers during the regular season. The Patriots have lost seven games in total but they are a better team on the road (6-2) than they are at home (4-5) so they won’t be daunted by this test.
Solid Pass Defense
These divisional rivals are both very strong defending the pass. The Bills have allowed just 5.7 yards per passing play, the best in the NFL (2771 yards total). The Patriots are also effective against the pass, allowing a 3rd best 6.4 yards per attempt (3181 yards). The Bills are slightly more effective defending the run (4.2 yds per carry) in comparison to the Patriots’ 4.5 yds per carry (24th in the NFL). Mac Jones has earned more yards per pass (7.7) than Josh Allen (6.8) but the Bills have the edge when it comes to rushing (4.8 yds per carry v 4.4 yards per carry).
That suggests that this match is more likely to be a low scoring affair and the winner could well be whoever manages to run the ball most effectively. Damien Harris rushed for over 100 yards in both regular season games vs the Bills. For the Patriots, Josh Allen had the most success on the ground, rushing for a total of 39 yards in their 14-10 loss and 64 yards in their 33-21 victory. The bookies make the Bills -4.5 point favs and they are 4/9 to win the match. The Patriots are underdogs at 9/5 and it is hard to argue with those odds.
Harris The Value
One bet that does represent a bit of value is Damien Harris to score a TD anytime. He had two huge games in the regular season vs the Bills, rushing for 100+ yards in both. He scored three touchdowns in the Pats’ 33-21 defeat in Foxborough and he scored their only TD in the 14-10 win in Buffalo. Harris has scored 15 TDs in total this season. No doubt he will be a pivotal figure for the Patriots again in this contest and odds of 13/8 about him to score a TD at anytime look a shade generous.
2022 NFL Wildcard Weekend Tip: Damien Harris to score a TD anytime @ 13/8 (B365)
Sunday: 18.00 GMT – Philadelphia Eagles (9-8) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-4)
Tampa Bay are the reigning Champions and Tom Brady and The Gronk are showing no signs of slowing down. Bruce Arians’ Buccs have gone 13-4 this season and they’ll have home advantage against the 9-8 Eagles. The Buccaneers are -8.5 point favourites and they are just 1/4 on the gameline. If you think Nick Sirianni and Jalen Hurts can pull off the upset, you can back the Eagles at 17/5.
These two teams last met in October 2021 and Tampa Bay came away with a 28-22 victory. There was nothing in it in terms of rushing the football (102 yds v 100 yds) but where the difference came was at QB. Tom Brady threw for just under 300 yards and two touchdowns. Jalen Hurts only passed for 115 yards and 1 TD, so it is clear to see where Tampa Bay had the edge. Antonio Brown was Brady’s main target in that game (9 receptions for 93 yards) but he is no longer part of the team after his crazy outburst vs The Jets. However, Rob Gronkowski was inactive and he’ll be more than capable of filling that void.
In terms of offensive and defensive stats, there isn’t a whole lot between these two teams. The Buccs are 10th for pass yards per attempt (7.4) and the Eagles are 14th (7.3). The Eagles have an edge when running the football though, averaging 4.9 yards per carry, the 4th best record in the NFL. The Buccs have only managed 4.3 yards per carry from far fewer attempts but they’ll be relying on Brady’s passing to get the job done.
The Eagles are top 10 in terms of yards allowed per pass (6.8, 8th) and per rushing attempt (4.0, 4th). The Buccs have allowed 4.3 yards per rush (13th) but they have the 2nd best pass defense in the NFL (6.4 yards allowed per attempt). As is often the case in these knockout games, turnovers could hold the key to victory and this is where the Buccs have a clear advantage. They’ve had 17 picks compared to the Eagles’ 12 and they’ve forced a total of 29 turnovers, compared to 19 for Philadelphia.
Could Be Closer Than Odds Suggest
The Buccs are 7-1 at home this season and they’ll fancy their chances of clipping the Eagles’ wings. However, as we saw earlier this season, there wasn’t a massive amount between these two teams (28-22) and Philadelphia won’t just roll over for Tom Brady and accept defeat. Jalen Hurts has had a solid first season as a starting QB and he’ll be raring to go after sitting out the weekend defeat to the Cowboys. This will be his first ever playoff game though and you’d have to favour the experience and know how of Tom Brady at this stage of the season. The Buccs should win a close game, but it is worth backing the Eagles +6.5 points at odds of 5/4.
2022 NFL Wildcard Weekend Tip: Philadelphia Eagles +6.5 points @ 5/4 (888Sport)
Sunday: 21.30 GMT – San Francisco 49ers (10-7) @ Dallas Cowboys (12-5)
America’s Team has home advantage for their tussle against the San Francisco 49ers. Mike McCarthy had a poor first season in charge at the Cowboys but this year he has led them to an impressive 12-5 record. Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers (10-7) have had a mixed season and they left it late to seal their playoff berth with a last round win at the Rams. The bookies make the Cowboys -3 point favs and they are 4/6 on the gameline. The 49ers can be backed at odds of 5/4 to win the match and that looks a decent price.
When these teams last met in 2020 the Cowboys prevailed 41-33 in a shootout. Will we be treated to another high scoring affair? It is a real possibility. Both Jimmy Garoppolo and Dak Prescott are capable of racking up lots of points and neither defense is especially strong statistically. The Cowboys scored over 50 points in two of their last three regular season matches and the 49ers have broken the 30 point barrier in six of their ten wins.
Diggs The Difference Maker For Dallas
The Cowboys lead the league for picks with 26 and CB Trevon Diggs has come up with 11 of them. The Alabama Graduate has had a breakout second season and rookie LB Micah Parsons has also stood out with 13 sacks and 20 tackles for loss. However, this has papered over the cracks somewhat as the Cowboys are 19th overall in terms of yards allowed per pass and only 25th in the NFL when it comes to defending the run. On the offensive side of the ball, Dak Prescott threw for 4,449 yards and Ezekiel Elliott racked up 1,002 yards on the ground.
The 49ers are a far more effective team passing than they are rushing. They are only 17th for yards earned per carry but for passing, they are 2nd best in the NFL with 8.6 yards per pass attempt. Deebo Samuel has been a key target for Garoppolo and he had a 1,405 yard season. George Kittle is another massive threat and Brandon Aiyuk has also chipped in with five TDs during the regular season. Nick Bosa is their main man defensively and he has come up with 15.5 sacks during this campaign.
Aiyuk Looks overpriced
This is a tough match to call and it could go either way. Instead of betting on the result, it might pay to have a wager on Brandon Aiyuk to score a TD anytime. Kittle and Deebo Samuel have both scored six TDs apiece this season and they are 7/5 and 11/10 respectively to score a TD at anytime. Brandon Aiyuk has had less receptions than those two yet he has scored five TDs. Kittle and Samuel will be closely watched by the Cowboys defense so Aiyuk will hopefully be able to find some space. 21/10 about him to score a TD at anytime looks a pretty decent price and at those odds, he is worth backing.
2022 NFL Wildcard Weekend Tip: Brandon Aiyuk to score a TD anytime @ 21/10 (P Power)
Monday: 01.15 GMT – Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7) @ Kansas City Chiefs (12-5)
What a match this promises to be between Showtime’s 12-5 Chiefs and Big Ben’s 9-7 Steelers. Andy Reid’s Chiefs missed out on the number one seed but they are red hot favourites to get the win and they are as short as 1/7 on the gameline. Mike Tomlin’s Steelers earned their playoff place with a dramatic 16-13 win at the Ravens. They are +12.5 point underdogs and the bookies make them as big as 11/2 to win the match.
When these two teams met during the regular season it was a one-sided affair at Arrowhead just a few weeks ago. The Chiefs scored 30 unanswered points before a Boswell FG made it 30-3 in the third quarter. It finished up 36-10 and, on that evidence, the Steelers look to have a massive job on their hands. However, Kansas have mixed the good with the awful at times this season and given that lack of consistency, the Steelers should not be written off.
Chiefs Superior Statistically
On offense and defense, the Chiefs have the edge statistically. Offensively they haven’t been as explosive as in recent campaigns, especially through the air. They have gained an average of 7.3 yds per passing play, 14th best in the NFL. Mahomes has thrown 13 picks though, his highest total since 2018. On the ground Kansas have been better, gaining 4.5 yards per carry (7th in NFL). Defensively, it has been pretty dismal. The Chiefs have allowed 7.3 yards per passing attempt (24th in NFL) and 4.8 yards per run (31st in NFL).
When you look at the Steelers stats, you’d wonder how the hell they even made it to the playoffs! They rank 30th (of 32) in terms of yards gained per passing play, 27th for yards gained per carry, 17th for yards allowed per passing play and they are the worst team in the NFL defending the run (5 yds allowed per carry). However, they do have an elite pass rusher in TJ Watt and he has electrified the NFL with an incredible 22.5 sacks this season.
Can Big Ben roll back the years and pull off one of the biggest shock wins of his career? The stats and the bookies reckon it is unlikely, but I am not so sure. If the Chiefs show up in top form, there is only going to be one winner. However, Tyreek Hill’s heel injury would blunt their attack and Patrick Mahomes has struggled for consistency. Yes, at times he has turned on the style but overall, he hasn’t looked as lethal as he has in previous seasons. They were far from convincing in their final round win vs the Broncos and the Bengals beat them 34-31 the previous week.
The Chiefs also struggled to beat a dreadful Giants team at Arrowhead back in November (20-17) and they scored less than 25 points in six of their eight regular season home games. Mahomes has thrown more picks this season than in the last two combined and with TJ Watt on the rampage, he could be put under huge pressure. If Watt can get a sack on the board early it could put the cat among the pigeons and at odds of 11/2, I think the Steelers are worth a small investment.
2022 NFL Wildcard Weekend Tip: Pittsburgh Steelers to win @ 11/2 (Betfair Exchange)
Tuesday: 01.15 GMT – Arizona Cardinals (11-6) @ Los Angeles Rams (12-5)
Last, but not least, two fierce NFC West rivals will fight it out in the final Wildcard game on Monday Night Football. Sean Payton’s Rams won the division despite losing to the 49ers last weekend. Kliff Kingsbury’s Cardinals could have nicked top spot with a win on Sunday but they bumped into a Seahawks team that was in the mood. The bookies think the Rams are by far the most likely winners and they are 1/2 on the gameline. The Cards are +4.0 point underdogs and 7/4 is available about them to win this match.
It is 1-1 between these two sides this season. The Rams beat the Cardinals 30-23 in Phoenix, while the Cardinals steamrolled the Rams 37-20 in LA back in October. That was a massive win psychologically for the Cardinals. It snapped an eight-game losing streak vs the Rams, home and away, that started back in 2017 and that included two shutouts. Arizona playing well on the road has been a recurring theme this season. They are 8-1 on their travels, compared to 3-5 at home. Losing to the Seahawks on Sunday may have been a blessing in disguise.
Passing A Strength
As far as passing the football is concerned, these are two of the best in the NFL. With Matt Stafford at QB The Rams have gained 8.1 yards per pass, the 3rd best in the League. Kyler Murray’s Cardinals are 4th best, with 7.8 yards per attempt. The Rams are less effective when running the football with just 4 yards per carry (24th in NFL). The Cardinals are marginally better, earning 4.6 yards per carry (21st) but they have had to deal with injuries to Conner and Edmonds at different stages of the season.
When it comes to defending the pass, The Cardinals are 9th best, allowing 6.9 yds per attempt. The Rams are only 22nd, allowing 7.2 yards. However, Payton’s men are far more effective at defending the run allowing just 4 yds per carry (7th in NFL). The Cardinals have conceded 4.6 yds per carry, ranking 27th overall. Looking at those statistics, this game could be decided by whichever QB produces their best. If both Stafford and Murray turn up in top form, The Cards should have the edge given The Rams’ poor record against the pass.
Cardinals Are Overpriced
Although the Cardinals’ early season form tailed off in the closing weeks, they have had excuses. Murray, Hopkins and JJ Watt all missed games with injury but Watt is due to return on Monday night and Hopkins could be back later in the playoffs if the Cards manage to get the win. The Rams have struggled at home at times and it is hard to forget just how dominant the Cardinals were when winning here earlier this season.
The Rams have made more interceptions than the Cardinals (19-13) but the Cardinals have had 8 more fumble recoveries (6-14). Chandler Jones and Isaiah Simmons are capable of creating turnovers at any moment, while the Rams can call on the destructive abilities of Aaron Donald. The big worry for the Rams is Matt Stafford. He has thrown a career high 17 picks (Murray has thrown 10) and he is 0-3 in the playoffs from his Lions days. This will be Murray’s first playoff appearance and he is more than capable of leading his team to victory. The Arizona Cardinals look well worth backing to win the match at odds of 7/4.