Last weekend in the NFL, the final Regular Season games of the year were played and while it was heartache for the likes of the Dallas Cowboys, Arizona Cardinals and perhaps most unfortunately, the Miami Dolphins, a number of other teams in both the AFC and NFC made it through to the post-season playoffs.
With the Green Bay Packers of the NFC and Kansas City Chiefs of the AFC confirmed as the top seeds, both these teams have a bye week this week. The remaining six teams in each conference that reached the playoffs now face Wildcard Weekend, when they will go head to head for a place in the Divisional Playoff Games next week alongside the top two seeds.
There is no doubt that the NFL is growing in popularity in the UK and Europe, thanks in part to the games played in London over the years, but also due to the fact that more people are following the game and also betting on it. If you fancy a flutter on any of the half-dozen games taking place across Saturday and Sunday this week and you need to sign up with a site to make your bets, then a good place to start is with the latest bet365 New Customer Welcome Bonus, which offers you up to £100 in bet credits.
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Let’s now take a closer look at each of the six games being played this weekend and give you our take on how each will go, and our tips on what market to bet on for each matchup.
NFL Wildcard Weekend
Saturday 9th January 2020
Indianapolis Colts (11-5) @ Buffalo Bills (13-3) (6.05pm)
The Colts were the team that benefitted most from Miami’s defeat last week to clinch a playoff spot despite being pipped to the AFC South title by the Tennessee Titans, but their reward is a tough trip to the AFC second seed, the Buffalo Bills, the very team that thrashed the Miami Dolphins to earn the Colts its playoff spot.
The Colts are a very well balanced team, top ten in the league on offense, defense and special teams and in Philip Rivers, they have an experienced quarterback who has vast experience of key games. However, they face a Bills side who under quarterback Josh Allen and with receivers like Stefan Diggs, has become the second most potent offense in the NFL this season.
The Bills have scored almost 48 points on average across their last couple of games and I think that kind of firepower is going to be tough for the Colts defence to blunt. If they can, then the Colts do have a chance here and perhaps more of a chance than the bookmakers feel, but for me, I feel the Bills have enough to claim a victory.
Top Bet – Bills to win (-6.5) on Spread Bet Market – 10/11.
Los Angeles Rams (10-6) @ Seattle Seahawks (12-4) (9.40pm)
The first of two Wildcard games between divisional rivals. These two teams are NFC West rivals and have already met twice this year, Los Angeles Rams winning the first on home soil, with Seattle winning the match up back in Seattle a few weeks later. In both those games, the Rams had more of the ball and produced more offense, but only in one could they convert that into a win.
There’s no doubt that these teams are well matched up but I think there are a couple of key areas which swings this one in favour of Seattle. The Seahawks are in the better form of the two teams at the moment, their defense is just that bit better especially in the secondary, and I think they have a more experienced and stronger quarterback in Russell Wilson.
The Rams have blown hot and cold for a few weeks now and while they were winners last weekend over the Cardinals to clinch this spot, I think going to Seattle to face a team that has already beaten them there this season, is going to be a step too far for them here.
Top Bet – Go for the Under 42.5 Points bet here at 10/11.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5) @ Washington Football Team (7-9) (1.15am Sun)
Tampa Bay Head Coach Bruce Arians has already stated that for his team of veteran superstars it is ‘SuperBowl or bust’ this season and in truth, the Buccaneers should take at least one step towards that goal by facing the NFC East Champions, the Washington Football Team.
Washington are by far the weakest team in the playoffs as their record suggests and they were very fortunate to get into the playoffs when stronger teams with an equal or better record missed out. They do have a strong defense, led by rookie Chase Young, but their offense lacks firepower and that is something that Tampa Bay, led by the six-time Superbowl winner Tom Brady, have in spades.
I think Washington will keep things tight initially and put up a good battle in the first half of the game, but I would expect Tampa Bay to pull away in the second half of the game and then pick up a couple of key defensive plays to cement what in scoreline at least will look like an easy win.
Top Bet – Tampa Bay Buccaneers to win (-8.5) – 10/11.
Sunday 10th January 2020
Baltimore Ravens (11-5) @ Tennessee Titans (11-5) (6.05pm)
These teams have already met this season in Baltimore where the Titans scored a touchdown in overtime to claim the victory. The Titans also bested the Ravens in the playoffs last season, when the Ravens were the AFC top seeds, beating them to earn an AFC Championship Game spot where they lost to eventual Superbowl Champions the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Ravens season did look dead and buried a few weeks ago after a loss to Pittsburgh, but the Ravens went on a fine run of victories to claim second spot in the AFC North ahead of the Browns and the fifth seed spot in the AFC.
The Titans beat Houston with a last gasp field goal to win the AFC South and earn the fourth seed spot. Defensively, the Titans concede a lot of points, but their offense is one of the most potent in the NFL and it seems as this game is going to be a shootout. It is certainly the most difficult to predict of all this week’s Wildcard games but with a +3 handicap in their favour, I am going with the Titans.
Top Bet – Tennessee Titans (+3.0) to win – Evens
Chicago Bears (8-8) @ New Orleans Saints (12-4) (9.40pm)
Despite losing last week to the Green Bay Packers, the Chicago Bears earned the seventh seed spot in the NFC due to the Arizona Cardinals losing to the Los Angeles Rams on the same weekend. They now travel south to the Mercedes-Benz Dome in Louisiana to take on Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints.
Brees return from injury a couple of weeks back was a timely one for the Saints. Without him their offense lacks the firepower they need against some of the high-octane offenses in this division. So his return is a huge plus for the Saints here.
The Bears will know their only chance of a win here is to get at Brees and put him under real pressure, so Khalil Mack and co will need a big day. I expect a spirited effort from the Bears, but I can’t see any way that they win this game. The Saints should win this one relatively comfortably.
Top Bet – New Orleans Saints to win (-10) – 20/21
Cleveland Browns (11-5) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) (1.15am Mon)
The second divisional match up of Wildcard Weekend is also a game that was played just last week, when the Browns defeated a second-string Steelers side to clinch a playoff berth. However, this Steelers team will be at full-strength for this game and that does alter the Browns chances of success a great deal.
With a number of players and their head coach ruled out, the odds are stacked against the Browns here, but apart from a 30 minute spell against the Colts, Pittsburgh have floundered a little in their last five games and that may well offer the Browns an unexpected chance.
The money and events off the field all seem to be pointing to a comfortable Pittsburgh Steelers win here and while I think the Steelers will win it, I think it will be a lot closer than many expect so much so that with a +6 handicap, I feel the Browns may be the team to back here.
Top Bet – Cleveland to win (+5) – 10/11