FAVORITES RULE THE WEEKEND IN NFL PLAYOFFS

The NFL put the "Wild" into WIld Card Weekend, with shocking upsets, backup quarterbacks shining, and triumphant returns to the field.

The favorites went 4-2 straight up in the NFL’s Wild Card weekend though they were 3-3 ATS. The only favorites that didn’t win over the weekend were the two No. 3 seeds: the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC and the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC.

With No. 1 Kansas City and No. 1 Green Bay sitting at home on the bye week, both No. 2 seeds moved on. In the AFC, the Buffalo Bills held on to beat the No. 7 Indianapolis Colts 27-24 in the weekend’s first game.

Second Seeds Win With Defense

The Colts drove to midfield in the waning seconds, but Philip Rivers couldn’t get the ball to the end zone on the Hail Mary attempt that ended the game. The Bills were favored by 6.5, so they didn’t cover but picked up their first playoff win in more than two decades.

On the NFC side, the No. 2 New Orleans Saints dominated the No 7. Chicago Bears defensively in a 21-9 home win. The Bears’ only touchdown came on the last play of the game, and the Saints covered the (-10.5) spread.

Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas returned from injury and scored the first touchdown of the game, his first score since December 22, 2019. New Orleans held the Bears to just six first downs before the final drive of the contest.

No. 3 Seeds Slip at Home

The Seahawks struggled all game long and fell to the No. 6 Rams 30-20. Backup quarterback John Wolford started for the Rams but injured his neck in the first quarter. Usual starter Jared Goff returned after having finger surgery two weeks ago and led the Rams to the win. Goff threw for 155 yards and a touchdown while Cam Akers ran for 131 yards and a score in the win. Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson had a rough game with 11 completions in 27 attempts and an interception.

The other No. 3 seed to lose was the Pittsburgh Steelers in the final game of the weekend. They turned the ball over five times and fell to the No. 6 Cleveland Browns 48-37.

Ben Roethlisberger threw for 501 yards and four touchdowns but also threw four interceptions. Baker Mayfield threw three touchdown passes for the Browns, who won a playoff game for the first time in 26 years. Cleveland had also dropped 17 straight games at Heinz Field against the Steelers.

Lower Seeds Roll on the Road

Both of the No. 5 seeds were road favorites this weekend, and they both won. In the NFC, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were (-10) at Washington, and they won 31-23, but didn’t cover.

Washington got an admirable game from quarterback Taylor Heinicke after Alex Smith was a pre-game scratch. In his second Washington game (and first NFL start), Heinicke was 26-for-44 for 306 yards but couldn’t complete the comeback. Tampa Bay got 381 passing yards from Tom Brady with two touchdowns, and Leonard Fournette ran for a touchdown in the win.

In the AFC, Lamar Jackson finally got a playoff win as the favored Baltimore Ravens won at No. 4 Tennessee Titans 20-13. Jackson’s Ravens fell behind 10-0, but he ran for 136 yards and a touchdown while passing for 179 yards as the visitors covered the (-3.5) spread.

The opening spreads are out for the Divisional Round next weekend. In the AFC, No. 1 Kansas City (-10) hosts No. 6 Cleveland on Sunday afternoon while No. 2 Buffalo (-2.5) hosts No. 5 Baltimore on Saturday night. In the NFC, No. 1 Green Bay (-7) hosts No. 6 Los Angeles Saturday afternoon while No. 2 New Orleans (-3.5) hosts No. 5 Tampa Bay on Sunday afternoon.

For NFL Divisional Round playoff picks, click here: https://www.njsportsbookreview.com/picks/football/nfl/