The Quickie Betting Preview continues. Sunday features three more NFL wild-card games, and each one includes teams that played each other at least once this season. The Baltimore Ravens were knocked out of the postseason last year by the Tennessee Titans. The Titans and Ravens meet again this year. For the nightcap, the Pittsburgh Steelers host the Cleveland Browns. The AFC North rivals meet for a third time this season, and the second time in back-to-back weeks.
The New Orleans Saints secured the #2 seed in the NFC. They’ll host the Chicago Bears, who limped into the playoffs with an 8-8 record, but advanced nonetheless. The Saints beat the Bears in overtime back in Week 8.
The Steelers and Browns slug it out in primetime, but the Browns will be without their head coach, who is out with COVID-19. It’s also the Gotta Get Unstuck Game of the wild-card weekend.
Here’s our quick betting rundown of Sunday’s wild-card action.
#5 Baltimore Ravens (11-5) at #4 Tennessee Titans (11-5)
- Kickoff: 10:05am PT
- Point Spread: BAL -3.5
- Total: 54.5 o/u
The Ravens are the “hot team” coming into the postseason. They’re peaking at the right time and have a tough defense that allows only 18.9 ppg.
But can they finally beat the high-flying Titans? On the flip side, can the Titans win their third-straight game against the Ravens?
These two teams met in a thriller in Week 11. The Titans won 30-24 in overtime thanks to Derrick Henry’s game-winning touchdown. The Ravens couldn’t stop Henry last year in the playoffs. He destroyed them for 195 rushing yards en route to a victory.
Tennessee is ranked #29 in defensive DVOA. They also have the worst red zone defense in the league. On paper and on film, it’s fairly obvious that the Titans suck on defense. But who needs defense when you have a top-notch offense and Derrick Henry?
The Titans are +3.5 home dogs against the visiting Ravens.
#7 Chicago Bears (8-8) at #2 New Orleans Saints (12-4)
- Kickoff: 1:40pm PT
- Point Spread: NOLA -10
- Total: 47 o/u
The New Orleans Saints already beat the Chicago Bears once this season in Week 8. Drew Brees tossed two touchdowns in the victory. A banged-up Brees played a couple games to end the season, but he’s still ailing from multiple broken ribs.
Da Bears snuck in the backdoor to secure the final wild-card spot in the NFC. Khalil Mack (nine sacks) anchors their defense. The Bears have the fifth-best red zone defense, which should be an ideal matchup. The Saints are ranked #5 in the red zone.
The Bears struggled to keep drives alive because they were the second-worst in the NFL in third down success rate.
The Saints are #1 in total DVOA and their defense is ranked #2 in DVOA behind Pittsburgh. Their red zone defense is their biggest weakness.
The Saints are only 4-4 against winning teams this season, but the Bears beat a good team only once, and were 1-6 versus winning teams.
Saints running back Alvin Kamara is a dangerous dual-threat. He tallied 83 catches, 756 yards, and five touchdown receptions. On the ground, Kamara rushed for 932 yards and 16 touchdowns.
#6 Cleveland Browns (11-5) at #3 Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)
- Kickoff: 5:15pm PT
- Point Spread: PIT -6
- Total: 47.5 o/u
The Browns advanced to the playoffs for the first time in 18 years when they edged out Pittsburgh in the final game of the season. Now they head into battle without their general as Kevin Stefanaski will miss the game due to COVID-19. No head coach? No problem! Baker Mayfield can figure it out by himself, right?
These teams split their two regular season meetings. However, the Browns won in Week 17 against a Steelers’ team that rested its starters, including Big Ben.
Pittsburgh has the #1 defense in DVOA. The “Steel Curtain” defense allowed 19.5 ppg — third-best in the NFL. The D-line is one of the best in the AFC. The Steelers led the NFL with 56 sacks and 136 quarterback hits. TJ Watt led the league with 15 sacks. They’re also the third-highest blitzing defense in the league, and tied for the most interceptions (18).
The Browns have one of the best O-lines in the league. They allowed the fourth-fewest sacks in the league and give Mayfield ample protection.
Cleveland is 3-4 against winning teams this season. If you toss out last week’s game, they’re only 2-4. Pittsburgh went 5-2 versus winning teams. Considering they rested starters in Week 17, if you don’t count that loss to the Browns, the Steelers were 5-1 against good teams.