The NFL playoffs are always entertaining because it’s a knockout tournament where the league’s best teams go head-to-head. The Wild Card playoff round marks the first round of the postseason where the bottom four seeds in each conference get the party started while the top two seeds on each side get a week off. If you’re new to betting on the Wild Card playoffs, we’ve got you covered with a comprehensive how-to guide to get you on the right track.
Understanding The Wild Card Playoff Betting Lines
If you’re planning to bet on the Wild Card playoffs, you’ll have to have a basic understanding of NFL odds. Let’s use an example to help illustrate how the odds work:
Washington Redskins +6.5
Green Bay Packers -6.5
The numbers next to each team’s name are the point spread. It’s a margin of victory, which means if you bet the team, they have to finish win or lose by a certain amount for you to win your bet. The minus sign indicates the team that’s favored, which is the Packers in this case. For them to cover, they have to win the game by seven points or more. On the other hand, the Redskins have a plus sign next to their odds, which means they are receiving 6.5 points. If you bet them, they can lose the game by 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 or 1, or win the game outright, and you’d win your bet.
You might also see an over-under, which might look like this:
The over-under – or total, as it is also known – is the combined score of the two teams. As a bettor, you decide whether the combined final score will be above or below the set total. If you think it will be a high-scoring game, you might bet over 52.5. If you think it will be a defensive battle, you would bet under. A final score of 37-21 or 33-30 would result in an over. However, any score that adds up to 52 or less would be an under.
How The Wild Card Playoffs Work
Before you bet the Wild Card playoffs, it’s important to understand how they work. There are two conferences in the NFL: the AFC and the NFC. In each conference, six teams make the playoffs. While the top two seeds in each conference earn bye weeks, the other four teams duke it out in the first round of the playoffs.
The No. 3 seeds will face the No. 6 seeds and the No. 4 seeds will face the No. 5 seeds. One key to note is that the division winners in each conference will always earn the top four seeds based on their records. However, it is possible that a No. 5 or No. 6 seed has a better record than a division winner. For example, if the AFC South is terrible one year and the best team finishes 8-8, they’ll still earn one of the top four seeds as a division winner. However, the AFC West could be particularly strong one year and have a team that finishes 12-4 and a team that finishes 10-6. The team that finishes 10-6 will be a No. 5 or No. 6 seed because they didn’t win their division. That could lead to them being on the road in the Wild Card playoffs facing a team with a worse record than theirs.
Keys To Betting The Wild Card Playoffs
It’s important to monitor momentum as we head into the playoffs as current form is a strong indicator of how a team will perform. If a team has struggled in the final weeks of the regular season, playing an elite team in the playoffs isn’t usually the time or place where they get it sorted out. There are some teams who play well early in the season, then struggle in the second half and barely make it to the playoffs. These are team to avoid.
On the flip side, teams who are playing their best football heading into the postseason are teams you want to bet on. You’re looking for teams that are peaking at the end of December.
Experience is something important to look at when you’re betting the playoffs as teams who have been there before tend to have an edge. In general, the quality of football played in the playoffs is a cut above the regular season. Aspects of the game like coaching, discipline and execution are amplified. Teams filled with players who haven’t been in the playoffs or with coaches that are new to the postseason can be weaker in the big moments than a team that’s been there. We saw a good example of this in 2018 when the young Los Angeles Rams just didn’t show very well in a 26-13 loss to the experienced Atlanta Falcons in the first-round of the playoffs.
Having the home crowd on your side is always important in football but even more so in the playoffs. Generally speaking, teams are better at holding leads, overcoming deficits and getting over mistakes when they’re at home. On the road, these types of issues tend to sink teams. That’s why you’ll almost always see the home team favored in these Wild Card matchups. It’s quite valuable.
Wild Card Playoff Trends
Home Teams Do Well
Although the 2017 Wild Card playoffs were an aberration, the general rule of thumb is that the home teams do well in the Wild Card round. Since 2007, the home teams had been 14-5-1 ATS heading into the last postseason. However, the home teams went 0-4 ATS last year with the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams both losing outright.
Big Favorites Perform Well
The trends tend to show that big favorites in this round do very well. Once again, last season was a bit of an aberration but heading into the 2017 Wild Card playoffs, teams favored by 7.5 points or more were 15-2 SU and 14-3 ATS. The Chiefs blew a 21-3 lead and failed to cover as a nine-point favorite last year while the Jacksonville Jaguars, who were favored by eight ended up covering by seven. To update the stats, favorites of 7.5 or more are 16-3 SU and 14-5 ATS.
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