The NFL regular season is over, and the first round of playoff matchups are set with the wild-card round taking place on both Saturday and Sunday.
The action begins in the AFC on Saturday, as the Houston Texans host the Buffalo Bills, and the New England Patriots take on the Tennessee Titans.
Patriots Fall to Wild-Card Round After Late Season Stumble
Normally, it would be difficult to see a 12-4 season as a disappointment, but the Patriots find themselves in exactly that spot after limping into the playoffs, going just 2-3 in their final five games. Pundits are asking if this is the end of the New England dynasty, as this is the first time since 2009 that the Pats will enter the playoffs without a first-round bye.
On the other side of the coin, the Titans (9-7) are a surprise playoff team, having reached the postseason behind former Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill. While Tennessee has won five of its last seven games, it’s still surprising that they are being given so much respect heading into this wild-card matchup.
Even at home, New England is just a 4.5-point favorite, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. The Patriots are also -235 on the moneyline, with the Titans (+200) being given reasonable odds of pulling off an upset – a sign that oddsmakers believe Tom Brady and the Patriots may be at the end of their run.
The other AFC wild-card game sees the AFC South champion Houston Texans (10-6) installed as 3-point favorites over the Buffalo Bills (10-6). The difference largely comes down to home-field advantage, as Josh Allen and the Bills have proven themselves to be a legitimate contender this season. On the other hand, there are legitimate questions about the Texans, who actually gave up more points than they scored this season despite their relatively impressive record.
Saints, Seahawks Favored in NFC Matchups
Sunday’s NFC Wild Card games include the biggest perceived mismatch of the first round, as the New Orleans Saints are 8-point home favorites over the Minnesota Vikings. The Saints went 13-3 despite losing franchise quarterback Drew Brees for six weeks due to an injured thumb on his throwing hand, and are hoping to give the 40-year-old signal caller one more run at a second Super Bowl title.
NFL Wild Card Odds
- Buffalo Bills (+3) vs. Houston Texans
- Tennessee Titans (+4.5) vs. New England Patriots
- Minnesota Vikings (+8) vs. New Orleans Saints
- Seattle Seahawks (-1.5) vs. Philadelphia Eagles
The final game of the weekend might be the most intriguing, as the 11-5 Seattle Seahawks are forced to go on the road to play the NFC East champion Philadelphia Eagles, who finished with a paltry 9-7 record. The NFL East was the weakest division in football this year, but the Eagles earned a home game by finishing a game ahead of the Dallas Cowboys. Still, Seattle comes in as a rare road playoff favorite, with oddsmakers making the Seahawks the pick by 1.5 points.
While there will be plenty of great NFL Wild Card action this weekend, most of the Super Bowl favorites have the week off. The Baltimore Ravens (+220) are the top pick to win the title this season, ahead of the San Francisco 49ers (+400), Kansas City Chiefs (+450), and the Saints (+600).