This is NFL Best Bets, a recurring series in which professional sports handicappers lend us their insights and picks for the most intriguing matchups for each week of the professional football season. Here are our top betting picks for all four divisional round games this weekend in the NFL.
You’ve got places to go, people to see and possibly some wagers to make, so let’s get right to it with some help from Thomas Gable, the director of race and sportsbook at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, sports betting reporter Josh Appelbaum of VSiN and Odds Assist CEO Dave Rathmanner.
Jacksonville Jaguars (+8.5, O/U 53) at Kansas City Chiefs
Appelbaum’s Assessment: This line opened with the Chiefs listed as a 9.5-point home favorite. The public is laying the points with Mahomes at home, yet we’ve seen this line fall from Chiefs -9.5 to -8.5. This signals sharp reverse line movement on the Jags, with pros grabbing the points with the road dog. Playoff dogs who missed the postseason the previous year are 4-1 ATS this postseason and 33-16 ATS (67%) the last five postseasons. The Chiefs are just 11-18 ATS as a favorite of -8.5 or more the past three seasons. I’ll back the contrarian dog and take Jags +8.5.
Gable’s Guess: Jacksonville coach Doug Pederson comes from the Andy Reid coaching tree and he’s 0-2 against his old boss thus far. That includes a Week 10 game this season when the Chiefs won by 10 with Patrick Mahomes throwing for 331 yards and four touchdowns and Trevor Lawrence getting sacked five times. The Jags turned the season around after that week that went 6-1 to close out the year. There’s a definite advantage for the Chiefs here coming off the bye week. Reid’s record off a bye is 27-4 for his career. He’s also 3-0 in the postseason with Mahomes off the bye and Mahomes has never lost in this round of the playoffs. But the underdog role for Pederson suits him well. This Jaguar team never quits on him. It’s a tall order to think Kansas City will make enough mistakes to cost themselves the game. As long as the Jags limit their own mistakes, they should be able to hang with the Chiefs. I’m going to look at the over.
Rathmanner’s Reckoning: Despite allowing 30 points last week, the Jaguar defense played well. Two of the Chargers’ touchdown drives were 16 and 18 yards, both set up by turnovers. While the Chiefs’ offense is good, Kansas City has actually played to the under in 7 of their last 10 games. Defensively, the Chiefs are 11th in yards allowed at just 328.2 per game. They are allowing just 21.7 points per game on the season and Jacksonville is even better, giving up just 20.6 points per game. You would expect Jacksonville to try and work the clock to keep the Chiefs offense on the sideline. These two teams met earlier this season and the game stayed under with just 44 points scored. A total of 53 seems too high for this one, so I’ll take the under. Also, the Chiefs at -2.5 in a teaser is a strong play. They have not been great against the spread this season but should win by at least 3 on Saturday.
Best Bet: Don’t love either team with this spread so going to take the under instead.
New York Giants (+7.5, O/U 48) at Philadelphia Eagles
Appelbaum’s Assessment: This line opened with the Eagles listed as a 7-point home favorite. Currently 70% of bets are taking the points with the Giants, yet we’ve seen the line move further to Philadelphia -7 to -7.5. Why would the oddsmakers hand out the hook to the public when they’re already hammering New York to begin with? Because smart money is fading the trendy dog GMen and backing the contrarian favorite Eagles instead. I’ll play Philadelphia in a teaser, taking the Eagles down from -7.5 to -1.5, which passes through the top key numbers of 3 and 7.
Gable’s Guess: Philadelphia won both regular season games between these two teams, and there’s no question this Eagles team is more talented and stronger on both sides of the ball, but there are two things right now that leave some doubt in my head. One is how sharp Jalen Hurts will look. He injured his shoulder, missed a couple of weeks, came back in the regular season finale and did not look great. My second doubt is just going by the eye test on the Giants. You can see this is a team that believes in and has full trust in its head coach. Brian Daboll is getting everything he can out of them. I think he’s a fantastic game manager and I believe he can keep this game close. I don’t necessarily think the Giants will win, but I’m going to take the points.
Rathmanner’s Reckoning: The Eagles beat the Giant backups in Week 18 to get a much-needed bye week. The time off allowed Jalen Hurts to fully recover from his shoulder injury. Look for the Eagles to turn him loose Saturday night, after playing a very conservative and vanilla offense against the Giants in Week 18. The Giants ranked 26th against the run during the regular season. So, in addition to a good dose of Hurts on the ground, RB Miles Sanders should have a big day running the ball. Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley will not find things nearly as easy against the Philly defense, which is second in the league in allowing just 301.5 yards per game. They faced the 31st-ranked Vikings defense last week. Play the Eagles -7.5. They are also a prime teaser candidate down to -1.5 along with the Chiefs at -2.5.
Best Bet: If the Giants are going to keep it close, they’ll need to score. Taking the over.
Cincinnati Bengals (+5.5, O/U 49) at Buffalo Bills
Appelbaum’s Assessment: This line opened with the Bills listed as a 3.5-point home favorite. The public is rushing to the window to back Burrow with the points. However, despite this lopsided betting in favor of Cincinnati, we’ve seen the line move further to Buffalo (-2.5 to -5.5). This sharp reverse line movement is a dead giveaway that pros are fading the trendy dog and laying the points with the Bills. I love Burrow but the Bengals have serious issues with their offensive line. They also just played two grueling games against the division rival Ravens. I’ll tease Buffalo down to basically a pick’em and root for the Bills to win straight up.
Gable’s Guess: Cincinnati’s offensive line has been ravaged by injuries and Joe Burrow has certainly had issues getting protection in his short career. I’m sure the Bills will get to him, but I think as long as Cincinnati can continue to protect the ball they’ll be right in this game. They are plus-seven in turnover differential in their last nine games and we’ve seen Buffalo make key mistakes recently, with at least three turnovers in each of their last three games. I think this should be the game of the weekend and obviously an emotional one. The Bengals got to the Super Bowl last year with a very questionable offensive line and Burrow is used to the pressure he’s going to see on Sunday. He certainly can be elusive. I’m going to take Cincinnati and the points.
Rathmanner’s Reckoning: The Bills had a few factors working against them last week in an ugly win against the Dolphins. They were coming off a few very emotional weeks and definitely did not have their “A” game, but they still found a way to win despite three turnovers. Their defense was still impressive in allowing just 223 total yards. The Bengals are coming off a very fortunate win themselves and they have some injury questions, especially on the offensive line. That will spell trouble against the fifth-ranked Bills rush defense. Buffalo’s offense is still firing on all cylinders and Josh Allen will do a better job taking care of the ball. Given the scare Buffalo got last week, there is some value in the Bills.
Best Bet: Betting the Bengals keep it close and taking the points with Cincy.
Dallas Cowboys (+4, O/U 46.5) at San Francisco 49ers
Appelbaum’s Assessment: This line opened with the 49ers listed as high as a 4.5-point home favorite. Currently 69% of bets are laying the points with San Francisco at home, yet we’ve seen the 49ers fall from -4.5 to -4 or -3.5 across the market. This indicates smart money taking the points with the Cowboys. Playoff dogs with a line move in their favor are 17-7 ATS (71%) over the past five postseasons. I’ll follow the smart money and back Dallas +4.
Gable’s Guess: This is an interesting matchup when you look at the defenses. They both rank in the top five for the fewest points allowed during the 2022 season. Also, they’re the two highest-scoring offenses in the NFL since Week 7. What happened in Week 7? The Niners traded for Christian McCaffrey and the Cowboys got Dak Prescott back from injury. Both the teams are coming off blowout wins and last season the Niners eliminated Dallas, which could add motivation for the Cowboys. As long as Brock Purdy continues to not make a lot of mistakes, the number of weapons around him will continue to carry this team. Dak had a tremendous game against Tampa, but we can’t forget how he’s looked from a turnover perspective since he’s been back. He’s going to have to make some critical decisions and play mistake-free football. I’m also a little worried about the Dallas kicking game. I believe San Francisco rises to the occasion. I’m going to lay the points.
Rathmanner’s Reckoning: This line opened at San Francisco -4 and has been bet down to -3.5 and even -3 at some shops, and rightfully so. 49ers QB Brock Purdy faces the toughest test of his young NFL career. Dallas knows how to bring pressure, ranking third in the league with 54 sacks. These teams are very evenly matched across the board. Offensively, the 49ers average 365.6 yards per game and Dallas averages 354.9 yards per game. Defensively, the 49ers allow a league-leading 300.6 yards per game, but Dallas isn’t far behind at 330.2 yards allowed per game. Dallas QB Dak Prescott should be able to move the ball some against the 49ers’ pass defense, which ranks just 20th in the league. While San Francisco has the best run defense in the league, the Cowboys have a versatile backfield with Ezekiel Elliot and Tony Pollard. With the 49ers having a very inexperienced QB, the moment may be too big for him. Taking Dallas at +3 or better.
Best Bet: Dallas has been a hit-or-miss team all season. Betting this is a miss and laying the points.
Super Wild Card Weekend: 2-4; This Season: 39-48-2
Editor’s note: Betting lines fluctuate throughout the week based on injuries, the weather and other factors. Make sure to double-check the odds before making your bets for the divisional round in the NFL.