With the first day of Wildcard Weekend finished, the next three games are slated for today with the Ravens and Titans kicking off at 1:05 PM. Here is the AFTR PRTY betting guide to today's games, and analysis from your favorite bookie.
Ravens (-3) Over Titans @1:05 PM
Oh what a difference a year makes. This time last year, the Ravens were the hottest pick in the NFL to win the Super Bowl. Lamar Jackson was the newly minted youngest MVP in NFL history, the Ravens had the best record in football, and the anticipation was already building for a Mahomes v. Lamar showdown in the AFC Championship. We all know what happened next. Despite Ryan Tannehill only completing 7 passes, the Titans rolled the Ravens and moved onto the AFC chip.
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Being someone who placed a future on the Ravens to win the Super Bowl at the beginning of the season, I’ve had a lot of faith in this team from the beginning. That being said, I was pretty surprised to find the Ravens favored in this game. They’ve put together a nice 5 game winning streak leading into the playoffs, but they’re on the road against that same team that bodied them 12 months ago (and beat them 2 months ago). However, the more I looked at this line, the more I LOVED the Ravens. I mean think about it: everything should point to the Titans being favored in this game. They have recent playoff success against this team, have home field advantage, and the best pure runner in the game in Derek Henry. Whenever there seems to be such a disparity between the evidence and the line, forget about the evidence and follow the line. I’m thinking the Ravens do what the Titans want to do and get ahead early, control the game by running the ball, and ultimately make enough plays to dispatch of the Titans. I’d also recommend buying down to 2.5, so in case Justin Tucker hits a game winning FG on the last play, you can still cover.
Saints (-9.5) over Bears @4:40 PM
With all due respect, the Bears do not deserve to be in the playoffs. I’m sad we won’t get to see Kyler in the playoffs this year, but the Cardinals failure to take care of business late in the season has more to do with the Bears making the playoffs than the Bears do. The only exciting thing about the Bears season was David Montgomery going from dud to stud out of nowhere and becoming the fantasy MVP just because Matt Nagy refused to put anyone else in.
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Okay, enough Bears slander. This Saints team is for real. They played a surprisingly easy schedule, but they have everything you would want in a playoff team. Their defense continues to improve and has serious playmakers, their offensive weapons (see Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas) are as good as anyone’s, and Drew Brees is an incredible leader who no doubt still wears a large chip on his shoulder. I think that his injury might be the best thing that ever happened for the Saints to be honest. They got to coast under the radar, play their little games with Jameis and Taysom Hill, and people sort of forgot about how good they were. Shit, Michael Thomas didn’t even catch a touchdown this year and they cruised to 12-4. The Saints are my pick to come out of the NFC, and I think they’ll roll a mediocre Bears team on their way to the Super Bowl.
Browns (+6) versus Steelers @8:15PM
There’s a lot of relevant news coming out about this game recently, mostly about Cleveland. The Browns are back in the playoffs for the first time in forever, but they’ve had to suspend practices for most of the week because of COVID, and their head coach Kevin Stefanski will not be allowed to coach on Sunday. However, I think the most important piece of information to come out recently is what Juju said yesterday ahead of the matchup. Now maybe it’s just me, but I thought Juju would learn his lesson after his TikTok moment in Cincy earlier this year. As much as I love talking shit, there’s something that everyone, especially and including Juju, should know: Saying the other team sucks this far before the game can only hurt you and help the other team. If you’re on the field and just had a nice play, by all means tell the guy across from you he ain’t shit. But if its 3 days before the game, shut your mouth. If you don’t think Myles Garrett and Baker Mayfield aren’t using that as added fuel to the fire, you’re lying to yourself. Additionally, if you think that saying the Browns are the Browns motivates your own team at all, you’re lying and you’re dumb.
Apart from all this, I don’t think that missing practice/their head coach will affect the Browns terribly. They’ve already drilled their schemes all year and know what their identity is, all that’s left to do is execute. Baker must do well under pressure against a stingy Steelers defensive front that is sure to blitz the pocket often. I’m also not sold that the Steelers are over their recent struggles. I think the defense isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, despite some elite talent, and that teams have figured out how to slow down Roethlisberger. Give me Browns plus points (+6) and sprinkle a little on the money line while you’re at it.