The big question today is, will the favorites continue to dominate, or will the underdogs strike back on Day 2 of the wild card weekend? Historically, the road teams have actually made Wild Card Weekend theirs, as the visitors went 16-2 ATS in the wild card round over the past four seasons, seemingly making the Raiders and Patriots good bets on Saturday.
But anyone who backed both Las Vegas and New England was out quite a few units, as the Raiders couldn’t get the backdoor cover and the Patriots got destroyed in every facet of the game against the Bills. We’ve got three spreads on the docket for NFL wild card action today, and if history is any indication, today’s a good day to back the dogs. But is that the way I’m playing? Here are my best bets for January 16.
MINNESOTA +5.5, -110
Going to the Barn does not tend to work out well for Iowa. The Hawkeyes are just 3-9 SU in their past 12 trips up Interstate 35, and if you had taken Minnesota +4 in all 12 of those games at Williams Arena, you’d have cashed every time. Ben Johnson’s Gophers are proving the surprise of the Big Ten after everyone and their brother picked them to finish last in the conference, and Minnesota’s tough to beat at home even when it isn’t good. I’ll gladly jump on the Gophers when I’m getting multiple possessions.
ARMY -1.5, -110
Lafayette can’t shoot and it can’t defend, which is why the Leopards are just 3-11 on the season. Army has four covers in its past five contests and should be able to handle a lousy opponent on the road when giving less than a bucket. The Black Knights appear to be in the Patriot League’s upper echelon, while Lafayette is likely to be playing in the opening round of the Patriot League tournament in March. This is worth laying.
BUCCANEERS -7.5, -110
The Eagles’ schedule over the final two months of the season couldn’t have been much softer. Philadelphia is in the playoffs because it feasted on a bunch of awful teams, especially over the final eight games. Out of nine wins, the Eagles have beaten Washington twice, the Giants, the Jets, Detroit, Denver, Atlanta, Carolina and New Orleans. Those teams were a combined 53-99-1, a win percentage of just .350. Tampa Bay is a big step up and knows how to run the ball. There’s a good chance this won’t be pretty.
49ERS +3.5, -120
I’m going to take the hook here because I think I might need it, but Dallas has run into much of the same problems Philadelphia has. The Cowboys teed off on the pathetic NFC East, and they appeared to get completely exposed by the Cardinals near the end of the season. San Francisco has battled through a rugged NFC West and faced Cincinnati, Green Bay, Tennessee and Indianapolis over the course of the year. That experience should help the 49ers here.
CHIEFS -6.5 1H, -110
Do I think the Steelers are going to make this game closer than expected? Honestly, no. Ben Roethlisberger has had a brilliant career, but he’s got basically nothing left. The Steelers willed him to the playoffs one last time thanks to some help, but this story doesn’t have the Jerome Bettis ending of 16 years ago. But that said, I don’t want to worry about Kansas City taking its foot off the gas with a 12.5-point spread. The Steelers have scored three or less in the first half of six of their past seven games, and the Chiefs should be ready from the opening whistle. Get the quick start with Kansas City and get out.