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NFL Wildcard Round Best Bets: Saints to do it easy

Fri, Jan 5, 9:18am by Staff Writer

The NFL regular season drew to a close last weekend, with a wild finish in the AFC standings.

The Baltimore Ravens were in prime position to be in the 2017 playoffs, needing a home win against the lowly Cincinnati Bengals. A 4th & 12 conversion by Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton resulted in a long touchdown pass and ended the Ravens playoff hopes.

The Ravens loss was celebrated across western New York, with the Buffalo Bills ending their 18-year playoff drought thanks to the Bengals heroics.

New England, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Minnesota all have a first-round bye and host playoff games next weekend.

Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs

Sunday, 7 January 2018 at 8.30am AEDST

The Titans and Chiefs have never met in the playoffs before, but that is set to change when Tennessee visits Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday morning.

The Titans are one of eight teams who did not make the playoffs last season, testament to the NFL’s year-on-year fluidity.

Kansas City come into the playoffs as AFC West champions, with the bulk of their wins coming in the early part of the season.

The Titans finished the season 9-7, but have lost three of their past four games. Second year quarterback Marcus Mariota has been disappointing for the Titans this season as the team has played a run-heavy offence.

The Chiefs have won four straight games, with rookie running back Kareem Hunt leading the NFL in rushing with 1,327 yards.

Tennessee play one of the most conservative offensive styles in the NFL which should hold them in good stead in a playoff game.

The road team has covered in seven of the last eight matches in this series and we expect the same outcome on Sunday.

Best bet- Tennessee Titans to cover +8.5 at $1.90  

Atlanta Falcons at Los Angeles Rams

Sunday, 7 January 2018 at 12.15pm AEDST

The Rams host their first post-season game in Los Angeles since 1985 when they play the defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons.

Los Angeles has been the most surprising team in the NFC this year. The NFC West champions bolted into the playoffs for the first time since 2004 after an 11-5 regular season.

The Rams offence is what has transformed the team in 2017, scoring 29.9 points per game, ranking first in the NFL. Last season, the Rams ranked last at 14 points per game.

No team has made back-to-back Super Bowls after losing in the prior year since the early 1990s, so history is against the Atlanta Falcons in this match.

Five second-half field goals by Falcons kicker Matt Bryant led to their 22-10 win against Carolina last weekend.

The Falcons offence has not been what it once was, averaging just 22.1 points per game after leading the NFL in 2016.

The Rams will look to score as many points as they can, but with the combination of Julio Jones and Matt Ryan, we aren’t willing to write off the Falcons. They should be able to keep this close.

Best bet- Atlanta Falcons to cover +6.5 at $1.95

Buffalo Bills at Jacksonville Jaguars

Monday, 8 January 2018 at 5am AEDST

Buffalo enters the playoffs by virtue of a last-second Ravens collapse to make their first playoff appearance in 18 years.

The Bills regular season was one which was littered with inconsistency, ending the season with a points differential of -57.

The Jaguars enter the playoffs on a two-game losing streak against San Francisco and Tennessee. The Jags locked up their playoff position two weeks ago, with a first-round bye out of their reach.

Quarterback Blake Bortles has five interceptions and two touchdowns in his last two matches, with running back Leonard Fournette also struggling with a quad injury, running for over 70 yards just once in five weeks.

The Bills allow the fewest touchdown passes this season with 13, and in close games such as this, both quarterbacks will be under immense pressure to improve upon their performances this season so far.

Jacksonville’s season has been built upon defence, and we expect that to continue in this match-up of two perennial under-achievers.

Taking Buffalo with the 8.5 point start is appealing, but this should be a game of few points and the under 39.5 is the more favourable play.

Best bet- Buffalo Bills/Jacksonville Jaguars total match points under 39.5 at $1.92

Carolina Panthers versus New Orleans Saints

Monday, 8 January 2018 at 8.30am AEDST

A meeting of two NFC South foes when the Panthers visit the Saints rounds out the NFL’s wildcard.

The Panthers struggled immensely against the Saints during the regular season, being outscored 65-34.

The Saints forced six Panthers turnovers in those matches, which has been a mantra of the team all season long.

Carolina’s offence has been built around quarterback Cam Newton as he has contributed almost 80 per cent of the team’s offence this season. Without a noted rushing game, Carolina’s point-scoring hopes hinge on the former number one pick.

New Orleans has predominately been known as a pass heavy offence in recent times under Drew Brees, but they have reinvented themselves this season thanks rushers Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara.

The Saints should dominate a Panthers team that does not have enough offensive weapons and can be easily shut down by the Saints defence.

The electric atmosphere inside the Superdome will be sure to play havoc with Carolina’s playcalling and they should lose this by double digits.

Best bet- New Orleans Saints 14+ Big Win Little Win at $2.66

All odds provided by Sportsbet

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