Wild Card Weekend Preview: Finding The Edge And Interesting Bets At NJ Sportsbooks

Posted on January 3, 2020 - Last Updated on March 27, 2020

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The NFL playoffs dawn this weekend, and bettors can employ some creativity at major New Jersey sportsbooks like:

In fact, a shrewd bettor will find small line changes to pounce upon at all sports betting apps in NJ.

FanDuel in NJ making the first move

FanDuel made the first break from the pack Thursday morning, moving the New England Patriots from -5 to -5.5 for their Saturday night game against the Tennessee Titans. Other books remained at 5.

SugarHouse had the Philadelphia Eagles at +2 for their Sunday afternoon encounter against the Seattle Seahawks, while the other books had Seattle at -1.5.

SugarHouse also provided a noted line swing for Sunday’s New Orleans SaintsMinnesota Vikings matchup. It initially dubbed New Orleans an 8.5-point pick, with the other sportsbooks staying at 8. Early Thursday morning, Vikings action prompted a drop to 7.5. 

That movement made Vikings’ bettors getting 8.5 feel as though they’d struck a bargain. That one-point difference represents the beauty of the sports-app betting age. Spot a line change and bet it before it moves again. And then bet some more if that makes sense.

The over-under for this game remained at 49.5 across the books.

One senses the bettors waiting before they unload the gambling stash on this contest. Picture that number hitting 7 or 6.5, and Saints bettors will form a stampede.

NJ sportsbooks all agreed the Houston Texans were -2.5 in hosting the Buffalo Bills Saturday afternoon.

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The NFL Wildcard Weekend betting edge

Finding the tweaks in the playoff line is significant because although books will adjust the spread slightly, playoff odds are less volatile than the regular season because the games involve a matchup of the haves versus the haves. Only a major injury or weather issue will force a wide change.

Spreads aside, moneyline incentive surrounds two games with teams being favored by less than a field goal. Playing Seattle, Houston, Philadelphia or Buffalo straight up will be worth it.

The weather may be a factor in one game. Rain is supposed to be falling during the Titans-Patriots matchup. If it’s light or intermittent, that won’t matter. If it gets heavy, that will probably impact the over-under, which was 44 across the board early Thursday.

Early splits from FanDuel

Buffalo held 54% of the spread picks and 57% of the midweek handle, while Tennessee sported a healthy 69% of the handle and 62% of the tickets against New England.

New Orleans was hit at 80% sentiment, despite laying more than a touchdown, and Seattle had 81% of the betting money and 74% of the tickets against Philadelphia.

NFL betting trends from recent history

Road teams have more than held their own, covering six of the eight opening-round playoff contests in the past two years and all four last season.

Along the point-total lines, absurdly low scoring games are not improbable as coaches have more motivation to play field-position football in certain situations. There was a 28 and 31-point total tossed into the first playoff weekend last year.

Punters. Remember them?

They have more place in a fourth-and-3 from midfield in a no-tomorrow game than during the regular season. Nobody loves punts and a field-position game more than “under” bettors.

The fact that no game this week has an over-under above 50 bears out the point. The Saints had 42 points themselves last week, and they are playing in the Superdome, which usually lends itself to a track meet. But not always in the postseason.

What about this week? Let’s examine some arguments for every team in the field.

Click here to learn more about NFL betting on Wild Card Weekend games.

Reasons to love the Eagles

The Eagles were only outgained 348-344 in yards during the regular-season matchup against Seattle on Nov. 24. Despite a 17-9 loss, Philadelphia had a slight edge of possession and contained Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson. Almost nobody does that.

The Eagles sacked Wilson six times. A repeat of that performance, and a reduction from five costly turnovers in the first game, would aid their cause.

Philadelphia also benefits from a beleaguered Seattle backfield. Rashaad Penny, who burned the Eagles for a 58-yard touchdown run, won’t play. Neither will Chris Carson, the workhorse back who combined with Wilson on a trick play resulting in a touchdown.

Although re-signed running back Marshawn Lynch will be playing his second straight game for Seattle, can he handle enough backfield duty for Philadelphia to respect the run?

The Eagles are also bolstered by the emergence of Boston Scott, who was only running back kickoffs in their first encounter. Promoted to the backfield, Scott has re-energized the Eagles, winners of four straight, and will be joined in the backfield by power back Jordan Howard, who can become prominent near the goal line.

The Eagles are at home, with momentum, and Seattle just lost two straight at home. Philadelphia also feasts upon adversity. This team was “done” when quarterback Carson Wentz was injured two years ago, and it became the Super Bowl champ.

The Eagles were “done” when, at 5-7, they trailed the New York Giants, losers of nine straight, by two touchdowns in the second half. But they came back to win that game and then beat the Washington Redskins, the Dallas Cowboys and the G-Men again.

Here they are, hosting a playoff game as division champions. And they are getting points. Just the way they like it.

Reasons to back the Seahawks

Hey, one inch away from winning the NFC West and dismantling the San Francisco 49ers, the team now getting home-field edge throughout the playoffs, last week. That’s something to build on.

The Seahawks had no points at halftime against San Francisco but clicked in the second half. It resulted in 21 second-half points and a stoppage near the goal line on the final play, set up by an uncharacteristic delay of game penalty. 

Using a short to mid-range passing game and an effective deployment of Lynch, the Seahawks were unstoppable in the second half. If that carries over, they will be formidable against the Eagles.

Lynch starts for the second straight game and should be able to handle more responsibility than last week.

Wilson would have to figure he won’t be sacked six times again. Even cutting that number in half would probably put another score on the board for Seattle. He has never lost to the Eagles.

Philadelphia has won four straight games, but none against a team with a winning record. And the Seahawks just missed beating the Niners. The Seahawks face the only home team that isn’t favored this weekend.

The case for the Titans

The Titans have three major NFC-style weapons to throw at the Patriots. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill is a good drop-back passer who can make enough plays with his feet to keep defenses honest.  He is 7-3 as the team starter and helped propel the Titans into the playoffs.

Running back Derrick Henry captured the league rushing title, parlaying his instinct with perhaps the best run-blocking offensive line in football.

The Titans also have a legitimate deep threat in A.J. Brown.

This is a solid play-from-in-front team but would have to abandon the Henry-first offensive scheme if it falls far behind early.

Tennessee also has to love the Miami Dolphins’ victory over New England last week. Ryan Fitzpatrick scorched the Patriots for 320 yards and made some nifty plays, including a scoring run, by stepping up in the pocket.

Reasons to love the Patriots

Two words. Bill Belichick.

The NFL’s greatest game coordinator has unfurled some classic plans to defeat playoff teams over the years.  Flea flickers. Tackle-eligible plays resulting in touchdowns. Disguised coverages. Pounding a weakness. Belichick produces an eye-opening play in nearly every postseason contest.

The New England coach may have done his finest job ever this year, guiding an injury-riddled team, which missed retired tight-end Rob Gronkowski, to the AFC East title. This is a team in slow decline, but if anyone can prompt New England to make a run, it’s the coach.

Tom Brady to Julian Edelman is still a lethal quarterback to receiver combination. After that, it’s all about interchangeable parts and a strong defense (which was not strong last week) for New England.

Some crazy play, a long-gaining end around or a flea-flicker pass, seems likely for the New England game plan this week. Brady should at least show the deep ball once early, just for it to be respected.

These are the defending Super Bowl champions. They are proud and, when 12-3, they were beaten by the now 5-11 Miami Dolphins at home last week when they needed the game. Wanna think of an angry playoff team? This is the one.

Interesting bets

Check out the parlays on a player scoring and his team winning at DraftKings.

Edelman and Henry are +225 and +250 respectively, and if they score first with their team winning, what a multiplier. Edelman and Henry would both be 12-1. Realistic for whichever team you like or even a hedged bet for either player to score first.

William Hill has an interesting double pairing. If Sony Michel and Henry score, the payback is +375. In that wager, one doesn’t worry about who scores first or whether a particular team wins.

There are many props like this throughout the books that are worthy of exploration. Financial bunches reward hunches. The key for bettors is to take a couple of stabs at these payouts without wagering too much of the bankroll on them.

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Supporting the Houston Texans

They did win the AFC South, captured 10 games and they are at home. That’s a nice edge for a playoff game.

And they are rested, the most critical aspect for quarterback Deshaun Watson, who was hobbling against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers two weeks ago and must be able to scramble in order to be effective.

On its best, this team defeated New England and has a habit of doing just enough to win.

The Texans face an opposing quarterback, Josh Allen, who will be in his first playoff game. And while the Texans have a deep passing game and may rally from a deep deficit, Buffalo isn’t built for quick strikes. The Texans can force the Bills into an uncomfortable situation if they get up a few points.

Throwing dollars on Bills

They just love the road, going 6-1-1 away from home this year.

Allen is an excellent scrambler, probably the best running threat Buffalo has. The defense is strong, steady and perhaps the heart of this team.

If Buffalo plays the type of game it wants, this would lean to an under on the point totals. The Bills love to play ball-control, tough defense and win by making fewer mistakes. They have played situational football as well as any team in the league.

Saints are explosive

They found their offense. Quarterback Drew Brees has 27 touchdowns and only four interceptions this year and looked fresh after returning from injury. He throws to the best receiver in the league, Michael Thomas, who caught 49 passes for 1,725 yards and nine touchdowns.

Brees will also be bolstered by the improving health of running back Alvin Kamara. The Saints have averaged 40 points over the last four games and have rediscovered big-play capabilities.

Wil Lutz is a seasoned kicker, and Saints backers will simply believe that New Orleans has at least one or two more plays in its repertoire than Minnesota, which is 4-4 on the road this season.

Supporting the Vikings

When healthy, they have a good running game to complement passer Kirk Cousins. This is a “home away” game for Minnesota, which plays indoors all season and receives a similar atmosphere here. Minnesota won 10 games, which is respectable, but would need the Saints to come down a notch in order to compete.

Still, the team has positives.

The Vikings, although not known for being a punishing defense, did notch seven turnovers in a Week 15 drubbing of the Los Angeles Chargers. But the offense went stale in a Week 16 loss to Green Bay.

The Vikings are rested, having nothing to play for in Week 17.

Dave Bontempo Avatar
Written by
Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo, a multiple national award-winning boxing commentator and writer, authors NFL betting columns for the Press of Atlantic City and IGaming Player, among others. He writes significantly about the emerging world of legal New Jersey sports betting.

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