The road to the Super Bowl is almost officially paved as most of the wild-card matchups are set and the books are already coming out with lines for the postseason’s most action-packed weekend.
The addition of a seventh-seed in each conference means an extra two games for the weekend and even more chances for bettors to get in on the action.
The Browns are making their first appearance in the playoffs since 2002. The Bills are hosting a playoff game for the first time since 1996. It’s set up to be a postseason for the ages. Here’s a look at the lines for those two crucial games and the rest of the schedule.
Wild-Card Game Lines
No. 5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers at No. 4 Washington Football Team or New York Giants
No. 6 Los Angeles Rams at No. 3 Seattle Seahawks (-4.5)
No. 7 Chicago Bears at No. 2 New Orleans Saints (-8.5)
No. 5 Baltimore Ravens at No. 4 Tennessee Titans (+3.5)
No. 6 Cleveland Browns at No. 3 Pittsburgh Steelers (-4.5)
No. 7 Indianapolis Colts at No. 2 Buffalo Bills (-6.5)
Lines via FanDuel Sportsbook
Super Bowl Odds
Odds via NFL” target=”_blank”>DraftKings Sportsbook
Wild-Card Matchup to Watch: Baltimore Ravens at Tennessee Titans
Highlighting the wildcard slate is a rematch of the 2019 divisional championship game between the Titans and Ravens.
In 2019, the Titans defense shut down the Ravens offense in a 28-12 win that sent Tennessee to the AFC Championship Games. On offense, the Titans rode a 195-yard performance from Derrick Henry to the win as Ryan Tannehill had to throw just 14 times.
The two met again in the regular season in one of the better games this season. Henry was once again the deciding factor as he scored from 29 yards out for a walk-off touchdown in overtime.
That was the second loss of a three-game losing streak for the Ravens. They’ve since won five straight and are averaging 37.2 points per game in that stretch. The emergence of J.K. Dobbins has been instrumental in that run.
The rookie has scored at least one touchdown on the ground in each of the last six games. He ripped off a season-high 160 yards in the season finale against the Bengals to clinch a playoff spot.
Henry looks ready to be the difference once again, though. He came into the final week of the season with a second consecutive rushing title all but wrapped up. At 1,777 yards, he was 200 ahead of Dalvin Cook. He proceeded to net an additional 250 yards to top 2,000 on the season.
The x-factor this time could be the Titans’ defense or lack thereof. In 2019, the unit was ranked 15th in efficiency and played even better in the postseason. In 2020, they rank 26th. Even if they improve somewhat in the postseason, it’s an unrealistic expectation to hold this offense in check like it did last year.
Storylines to Watch
After 18 years of watching the playoffs from home, the Browns are set to play a familiar foe. It’s already been a historic season for Cleveland but quarterback Baker Mayfield expects this to become the new normal for the franchise.
“There’s a new standard here, and it needs to keep that way,” Mayfield said after clinching a playoff spot with a 24-22 win over Pittsburgh.
Beating the Steelers two weeks in a row will be a daunting task. The Steelers rested Ben Roethlisberger and went with a combination of Mason Rudolph and Josh Dobbs at quarterback. They also rested key starters Maurkice Pouncey, TJ Watt and Cameron Heyward in the Week 17 matchup.
The Steelers won the first matchup 38-7 but Cleveland was without leading rusher Nick Chubb and Pittsburgh is backing into the playoffs with a 1-4 record in their last five games.
In the NFC, the Saints could be down to their last ride with Drew Brees. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that most expect the soon-to-be 42-year-old quarterback will retire at the end of the season.
Brees has not had much luck in the playoffs with the Saints recently. They’ve been eliminated in the last three years by an average of 4.6 points per game.
A changing of the guard in the league’s hierarchy of quarterbacks could be a theme for the whole postseason. Brees is joined by Tom Brady (43), Philip Rivers (39) and Roethlisberger (38) as quarterbacks who are chasing titles in the twilight of their career.
However, they’ll have to get through quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes (25) and Josh Allen (24) to do it.
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