When the NFL odds for Wild-Card Weekend were released late Sunday, the betting public decided to hold off on hammering any of the 12 teams playing in the first round of the playoffs. Of the six games, the largest line movement was a half-point on two games.
The Seattle Seahawks opened as a five-point favorite over the Los Angeles Rams, but quickly dropped to 4.5. The Baltimore Ravens were a four-point pick over the Tennessee Titans, but slipped to 3.5.
NFL Wild Card Weekend
|Indianapolis at Buffalo||Bills -6.5|
|LA Rams at Seattle||Seahawks -4.5|
|Tampa Bay at Washington||Bucs -7.5|
|Baltimore at Tennessee||Ravens -3.5|
|Chicago at New Orleans||Saints -9.5|
|Cleveland at Pittsburgh||Steelers -3.5|
The lines for the other four games held steady, with New Orleans having the largest point spread. The Saints are 9.5-point picks over the Chicago Bears, who backed into one of the final NFL Wild-Card Weekend spots. The Bears were pummeled 35-16 by the Green Bay Packers, but got a spot when the Arizona Cardinals couldn’t defeat the Rams.
Familiarity Rampant in NFL Wild-Card Weekend
Of the six games next weekend, four of them will be rematches of regular-season contests. In two of those games, the teams will have faced each other twice in the regular season.
Cleveland travels to Pittsburgh a week removed from downing the Steelers, 24-22. The Browns were a whopping 9-point favorite and didn’t come close to covering the spread. The betting public wasn’t buying the fact the Browns would thrive with the Steelers resting several starters. William Hill reported 65% of the tickets and 64% of the money was on the Steelers.
Though the Browns prevailed in the second game, they were pounded in Week 6, 38-7.
Cleveland head coach Kevin Stefanski told reporters on Sunday they know beating Pittsburgh on the road will be difficult.
“I know we are going to play this team again next week,” Stefanski said. “We have a ton of respect for them, their coaches and their players. It is a first-class group that we are going to have to have a great week to get ready to play.”
The Rams and Seahawks also met twice during the regular season. The two NFC West rivals also split the two games. The Rams won in Week 9 at home, 23-16. The Seahawks won six weeks later, 20-9.
The other teams who faced each other during the regular season are New Orleans Saints and the Chicago Bears, and Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans. The Saints defeated the Bears, 26-23 in Week 7 on the road, while the Titans downed the Ravens on the road in Week 10, 30-24.
Déjà Vu for Washington’s Ron Rivera?
The NFC East sent a team to the playoffs with a losing record. Washington got in by getting past Philadelphia on the road Sunday, 20-14.
Washington became the first losing team to reach the playoffs since the 2015 Carolina Panthers made it with a 7-8-1 record. The coach of the Panthers that year? Ron Rivera, whose Washington team will host Tampa Bay.
The Panthers managed to upset their first-round opponent in 2015, beating Arizona, 27-16.
Just like Carolina, Washington made NFL Wild-Card Weekend because they won their division. Rivera told reporters on Sunday this is an achievement he’s proud of.
“This one’s special just because of how hard it was,” Rivera said. “How tough everything was, how it’s been on the guys, the organization. There’s a great group of young men in there, and we’re trying to do things the right way. It’s really a cool thing to come out and get the division.”