Check out our 2021 Wild Card picks as the NFL enters its first weekend of playoff football
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The NFL regular season closed with a bang, giving us a number of playoff stocks that remained unsettled through the final week. Now, it's on to the race to Super Bowl LV. And first up, as usual, is the always exciting and wacky Wild Card Weekend. This year's slate features a number of intriguing matchups, and we have the 2021 Wild Card picks to help you navigate all the madness.
First, however, let us take a look at the latest NFL playoff betting odds for the six slates on deck, courtesy of Bovada:
|Buffalo Bills||-300||+250||Indianapolis Colts|
|Seattle Seahawks||-220||+180||Los Angeles Rams|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||-450||+325||Washington Football Team|
|Baltimore Ravens||-190||+165||Tennessee Titans|
|New Orleans||-480||+340||Chicago Bears|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||-220||+180||Cleveland Browns|
As always, we urge you to confirm these lines before making any decisions. Oddsmakers will adjust the current odds before kickoff based on the opening action.
Let's get to our picks!
2021 NFL Wild Card Predictions
Buffalo Bills (-300) vs. Indianapolis Colts (+250)
The Colts have quietly put together a nice season despite only just sneaking into the AFC playoff picture. They rank in the top 10 of both points scored and allowed per game, even though their offensive attack has verged on maddeningly inconsistent.
That variance on the more glamorous side of the ball is part of our distrust. They can't be sure what they're getting from quarterback Philip Rivers or running back Jonathan Taylor from week to week at this point.
On top of all that, the Bills' passing attack is humming at the moment. And Indy doesn't have the horses in its secondary to slow down Josh Allen and his core of playmakers.
OSB Prediction: Buffalo Bills (-300)
Seattle Seahawks (-220) vs. Los Angeles Rams (+180)
Look, we get if you want to entertain a Rams upset. We just strongly advise against it.
Not only is Russell Wilson piloting one of the most potent offenses in football right now, but the Seahawks are something of a juggernaut when it comes to winning postseason tilts at home. In fact, they're on a 10-game winning streak at Lumen Field in the playoffs dating back to the 2005 season. Their overall playoff record on their own turf is a similarly impressive 12-2.
Playing during the coronavirus pandemic does limit the benefits of home-field advantage, but Seattle has been stellar at their own stadium all year. There's no reason to predict otherwise now.
OSB Prediction: Seattle Seahawks (-220)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-450) vs. Washington Football Team (+325)
Slowly, surely and somewhat quietly, the Bucs finished the regular season as perhaps the hottest team in the league. According to the Simple Rating System, which rates teams by the strength of schedule and point differential, there is actually only one squad in the league better than Tampa Bay.
Going that far with the Bucs optimism is a touch too ambitious. Their defense has cracks, and the offense is a little light on big-gain potential. And yet, Tom Brady is not steering the third-best points machine in the NFL by mistake. There is a deliberateness to how Tampa Bay plays.
If that doesn't convince you, the fact that the Bucs are going up against the weakest playoff team alive absolutely should.
OSB Prediction: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-450)
Baltimore Ravens (-190) vs. Tennessee Titans (+165)
Full stop: This is the toughest Wild Card matchup to predict. Both teams sport what could be defining flaws.
It's great that the Titans have been able to ride Derrick Henry to the seventh-best offense in the league, but they remain unimpressive when forced to rely on quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and they have the second-worst passing defense entering the playoffs.
The Ravens, meanwhile, are still waiting for Lamar Jackson to have a hallmark postseason performance. He has disappointed in previous playoff outings, including last year's loss to this very Titans team.
There is a pull to go with the upset here. Tennessee seems to play a game more suited for the grind that is the postseason. At the same time, their defense isn't nearly good enough for us to go against the chalk.
OSB Prediction: Baltimore Ravens (-190)
New Orleans Saints (-480) vs. Chicago Bears (+340)
Let's not mince words with this one: Don't pick the Bears. They are not in the Wild Card by any impressive virtue. They are making it this far is more so a harbinger of how bad the NFC playoff picture wound up looking.
Go with the Saints, who have Drew Brees healthy again and should have Alvin Kamara in the backfield by kickoff. It really is that simple.
OSB Prediction: New Orleans Saints (-480)
Pittsburgh Steelers (-180) vs. Cleveland Browns (+220)
If this were four weeks ago, the Steelers would be favored by so much more. Their 1-3 finish to close the regular season has since spawned doubts about their legitimacy—particularly on the offensive side of the ball.
Picking the Browns is still a huge risk, and we definitely wouldn't recommend it as part of a parlay. Still, they have an offense that has started to show flashes of dominance over the past six weeks or so. While we're not going against consensus, you're encouraged to consider it.
OSB Prediction: Pittsburgh Steelers (-180)
Parlay Recommendation of the Week
Though we have picked all six favorites in this year's Wild Card fracas, we are not confident enough in the Ravens and Steelers selection to make them part of our parlay. Instead, we endorse a bet slip that looks like this:
- Saints (-480)
- Bucs (-450)
- Seahawks (-300)
- Bills (-220)
This doesn't have the look and feel of a particularly lucrative parlay, but it still pays out nearly 3-to-1. For every $100 you wager, you're looking at a $287 return—so, $187 in pure profit—and it has the added benefit of featuring our four surest predictions.