Gambler guide to Wild Card Weekend


We like Big Ben and the Steelers to win a shootout on Saturday. (Getty Images)

The start of the NFL playoffs is just a day away, which means a whole lot of money is about to be gambled over the next month or so. Spreads and over/unders may not play a role in who advances to the Super Bowl, but they will sure make a difference in the size of people’s bank accounts. With that in mind, we’re going to present a gambler’s guide to each round of games from now through the big game.

Note: All records against the spread and over/under are courtesy of

Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers (Saturday, 4:20 PM Eastern)

Spread: Panthers -6.5

Over/Under: 38

Against the Spread
Team Overall Home Away
ARI 11-5 6-2 5-3
CAR 8-8 4-4 4-4
And over/under:

Team Overall Home Away
ARI 5-10-1 3-5 2-5-1
CAR 8-8 2-6 6-2
What you need to know:

The Cardinals have averaged only 15.5 points per game in games played without quarterback Carson Palmer this season, and they’ve scored only 23 total points in the last two games with Ryan Lindley under center, both losses. Their offense has averaged fewer touchdowns per game without Palmer than any other team in the league did throughout this season. Meanwhile, the Panthers are averaging a 28.8 – 10.8 margin of victory over their last four games as both their running game and defense have returned to fine form.

On the road, Cardinals games have averaged only 34.0 total points between both teams. The under is 5-2 in Arizona’s last seven games and 11-5-1 in their last 17 against NFC opponents. Panthers home games have averaged just 38.0 total points, and that’s including the stretch of the season before which the 2013 version of their defense showed up. The under is 14-5 in Carolina’s last 19 games against NFC foes and 43-21-1 in their last 65 home games.

This should be a low-scoring game, and right now the Panthers are just too much for Arizona to handle.

Picks: Panthers -6.5; Under 38

Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers (Saturday, 8:15 PM Eastern)

Spread: Steelers -3

Over/Under: 45

Against the Spread
Team Overall Home Away
BAL 7-8-1 4-4 3-4-1
PIT 9-7 5-3 4-4
And over/under:

Team Overall Home Away
BAL 7-9 2-6 5-3
PIT 9-7 6-2 3-5
What you need to know:

These two teams, being divisional rivals, have already met twice this year. Baltimore beat Pittsburgh 26-6 in Baltimore, while the Steelers beat the Ravens 43-23 in Pittsburgh.

In 16 regular-season games between the Joe Flacco-led Ravens and the Steelers, the matchups have totaled 37.5 points per game. An amazing 10 of those 16 games have been decided by three points or less, including nine by exactly three, one by two points and one by four.

Baltimore allowed 24.4 points per game on the road this season, significantly worse than the 12.5 they allowed at home. Meanwhile, Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and the Steelers averaged 31.1 points per game at home, 33.3 against AFC North teams at home, and 29.0 points per game in December. Le’Veon Bell may sit this one out, but it’s the matchup of Pittsburgh’s No. 1-ranked pass offense against Baltimore’s No. 15 pass defense that seems likely to drive much of the scoring. The over is 9-3 in the Steelers’ last 12 home games.

The Ravens are 1-4 against the spread in their last five games overall, 1-4 in their last five against the AFC and 0-3-1 in their last four against the AFC North. These games are always close, but based on the corollary that you only take a road underdog with the spread if you think they’ll win the game outright, the pick here is the Steelers in a shootout.

Picks: Steelers -3; Over 45

Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts (Sunday, 1:05 PM Eastern)

Spread: Colts -3

Over/Under: 49

Against the Spread
Team Overall Home Away
CIN 8-7-1 4-3-1 4-4
IND 10-5-1 5-2-1 5-3
And the over/under:

Team Overall Home Away
CIN 6-10 5-3 1-7
IND 9-7 4-4 5-3
What you need to know:

Marvin Lewis’ Bengals are 0-5 straight-up and against the spread in playoff games. Meanwhile, the Colts are 1-4 against the spread in their last five playoff games, but they’re 20-6-1 ATS in their last 27 home games and 16-5-1 against the spread the last 22 times they’ve faced off with an AFC opponent.

Cincinatti’s road games totaled 37.4 points per game between both teams. The Bengals scored 22.7 points per game in 10 games against non-AFC North opponents. Indy’s home games averaged 57.6 total points and at least one team scored 30-plus points in six of their eight games at home. The Colts’ offense slipped badly down the stretch, though: they scored 31.1 points per game in the first eight games, 26.0 in the last eight, and 12.8 in the last four.

The Colts were just 2-4 straight-up against playoff teams this season, and were outscored by 47 points in those games. Based on the corollary about road dogs mentioned above, we’re taking the Bengals to break their playoff streak against an Indy squad that hasn’t been very good against good teams, even if their one win did come against the Bengals themselves. As we’ll detail later today, Jeremy Hill and the newly-powerful Cincinnati running game make a world of difference.

Picks: Bengals +3; Under 49

Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys (Sunday, 4:40 PM Eastern)

Spread: Cowboys -6.5

Over/Under: 48

Against the Spread
Team Overall Home Away
DET 7-9 5-3 2-6
DAL 10-6 3-5 7-1
And the over/under:

Team Overall Home Away
DET 5-11 4-4 1-6
DAL 9-6-1 2-5-1 6-1
The over is 5-1 in the last five games between these two teams and 4-1 in the last five meetings in Dallas, but all of those games were played in years when the Lions didn’t have the No. 1-ranked defense in the NFL. The under is 8-1 in Detroit’s last nine road games and 3-0-1 in the Cowboys’ last four home games.

Detroit has lost games by an average score of 19.6 to 15.5 on the road this season, but they’ve averaged only 12.3 points per game in their last four road tilts. They’re scored 25-plus points in a game only three times this season, all at home. Meanwhile, the Cowboys averaged 25.0 points per game in the seven home games during which Tony Romo played this season and they scored an amazing 41.3 points per game in December.

The Lions are 8-20-1 against the spread in their last 29 road games, 2-6 ATS in their last eight against NFC opponents and 2-5 in their last seven games overall. Meanwhile, Dallas went 4-0 against the spread in their last four games.

Picks: Cowboys -6.5; Under 48

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January 7, 2015: posted in News And Reviews No Comments

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