Eli’s NFL Divisional Round Best Bets & Picks: Buccaneers To Cover Spread At Lions?

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Written By Eli Hershkovich | Last Updated
NFL Divisional Round Best Bets

As NFL playoffs odds near kickoff for what is annually considered the best slate of the season, this article helps assist bettors with price discovery and handicapping point spreads, moneyline odds, and totals while shopping at the best betting sites. In particular, Buccaneers at Lions and Texans at Ravens stand out — compared to my betting model. Let’s examine my 2024 NFL Divisional Round best bets, starting with the chaotic line movement ahead of the NFC clash.

Click any of the sports betting odds below to place a bet. We’ve sorted through them to find the best available.

Bet: buccaneers to lose by six or fewer points (or win outright)

Some bettors may be unfamiliar with the aforementioned term, price discovery. This process begins when wagers are generated on the opening spread or total. Early action is used to adjust the number. Shops may also tail the odds of operators that are considered “market makers.” They tinker with their pricing because a competitor repositioned its own. Liability tolerance (or lack thereof) could be enough to reshape the odds at other sportsbooks.

Regarding the Lions’ odds, they were listed as 5.5-point favorites on the “look-ahead line” — before Buccaneers vs. Eagles began. After Tampa Bay polished off a wire-to-wire victory in the finale of Super Wild Card Weekend, the spread quickly shifted to Detroit, laying the key number of seven. The line then reverted toward Tampa Bay in less than an hour, dipping to Lions -6. It escalated to the hook on Tuesday afternoon and is unlikely to revisit its peak price point again.

For reference, my model churned out Detroit as around a four-point. Thus, the Lions’ spread is inflated, per my numbers.

Believe In Baker

The journeyman quarterback tore apart the Eagles’ decimated secondary on Monday night — to the tune of 8.9 yards per pass attempt (YPA). Quite frankly, Tampa Bay should’ve won by more than 23 points if it weren’t for six first-half drops, including a would-be touchdown by star wideout Mike Evans.

Granted, Philly collapsed down the stretch, failing to cover in each of its final seven games while losing six of them straight up. Therefore, the betting market may have taken a stand on the Buccaneers defeating an inferior team. But overall, I have Detroit’s strength of schedule (SOS) power-rated just a half-point higher than what Tampa Bay has faced, making that a moot point.

Additionally, the Lions have the propensity for allowing teams to hang around. Despite going 12-6 against the spread (ATS), seven of their last nine games resulted in a one-score win or an outright defeat. That wasn’t by happenstance. These outcomes were largely a product of their vulnerable pass defense, yielding the NFL’s eighth-most dropback EPA and success rate, respectively.

Even with the reinsertion of veteran safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson, who missed 15 games with a torn pec, Dan Campbell’s unit let up 9.4 YPA to Matthew Stafford in the wild-card round. Detroit employs a bit more zone than man coverage, with the latter scheme representing its biggest flaw.

Mayfield could compile a similar outing to Stafford versus the Lions’ man-to-man or single-high safety looks. Even if they drift back into their comfort zone, he’s accrued the second-most EPA per dropback against zone coverage among qualified signal-callers. Mayfield ranks behind the 49ers’ Brock Purdy in that department.

Contrary to popular belief, the Bucs won’t be afraid to neglect their rushing attack against Detroit’s stout defensive front. For context, they delivered a 75% neutral-game pass rate versus the Eagles. Plus, Mayfield’s proficiency was 4.8 YPA higher than his average in the last two regular-season contests, proving that his ankle and rib injuries are mostly behind him.

Bear in mind that Mayfield missed a bevy of wide-open throws in their Week 6 home loss to the Lions. If he converts on the fast-track turf this time, Detroit should struggle to repeat its double-digit victory margin.

Lions’ Overvalued Offense

Following three consecutive TD drives against the Rams, QB Jared Goff helped manufacture only a field goal the rest of the way. Whether the blame fell on offensive coordinator Ben Johnson or Goff in non-scripted situations, the offense clearly struggled to adjust. Specifically, he failed to tally a single completion when pressured.

Although the narrative declares otherwise, Goff is still prone to mistakes while under duress. This notion is exemplified by his 28th-ranked pressure catchable pass rate (45.7%). Todd Bowles, the Bucs’ head coach and defensive play-caller, is as creative as they come, dialing up the third-highest blitz rate across the league.

Moreover, corners Jamel Dean and Carlton Davis are relatively healthy after they both endured injury-riddled campaigns. Believe it or not, Tampa Bay’s secondary is arguably in a better position to hinder the Lions’ explosive passing attack than the other way around, especially if Bowles’ top-10 run defense limits their play-action opportunities.

Final Thoughts

As I previously noted, don’t expect the spread to any further pre-flop. Hence, I’d play the Bucs down to +6 (-110). Join TheLines.com’s free sports betting Discord to get an immediate alert whenever I post a bet. Head over to the #roles server to enroll in the push notifications.

STATS
Buccaneers logo Buccaneers TB
Lions logo Lions DET
Offense Ranking OFF RNK N/A N/A
Defense Ranking DEF RNK N/A N/A
Offense Net Yards Per Game OFF NET YPG
Defense Net Yards Per Game DEF NET YPG
Passing Yards Per Game PASS YPG
Turnovers Committed Per Game TOC PG

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Bet: ravens and Texans to combine for under 45 points

Unlike the first of my NFL divisional round best bets, this one has shrunk by two points at most shops. Yet, there’s a stray under 44 (-110) available, as of this publishing. Like the low-scoring affair between the Chiefs and Dolphins in the first round, the weather will be a factor.

Offensive Regression In Store

Texans QB C.J. Stroud only trailed the Packers’ Jordan Love in the race for the most efficient showings under center during Super Wild Card Weekend. Despite Stroud’s most faulty performances in his first NFL go-around coming against man coverage, the Browns opted to utilize more zone looks. He carved them up for 12.7 YPA with a variety of play-action and misdirection designs.

Nevertheless, Houston averages 3.9 points per game (ppg) fewer on the road. That correlates with substandard conditions, which was an obvious contributor to Stroud’s 12.9% turnover-worthy play rate in a Week 12 blowout defeat at the Jets. The Texans tied their season-low scoring output in that contest, to boot.

The same will be the case at M&T Bank Stadium, as 15-20 mph winds are expected. Similar to New York, Baltimore boasts an elite pass defense that also stockpiled a league-high 60 sacks. Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald primarily advertises zone concepts, but his group surrendered a bottom-10 dropback EPA to opponents in man coverage.

If Stroud faces a negative game script, which occurred in their season-opening matchup, he will likely suffer a setback. Given the Ravens are coming off the bye as the No. 1 overall seed, Macdonald should have a few tricks up his sleeve for Stroud as well.

As for soon-to-be MVP Lamar Jackson, he’d normally excel against a zone-centric defense that has yielded the eighth-highest explosive passing play rate. Given the potential elements, though, there’s a higher probability that Baltimore banks on its ground attack. In turn, that would enable them to grind the clock, leaning on the fifth-slowest adjusted pace in the NFL. This type of positive script is undoubtedly a healthy variable for the under.

Final Thoughts

If you’re unable to bet the under at the key number of 44 or better, contemplate monitoring this matchup once it’s underway. A live wager on the total could certainly be worthwhile if Jackson & Co. start off hot in hostile conditions. Good luck with your own NFL divisional-round best bets.

STATS
Texans logo Texans HOU
Ravens logo Ravens BAL
Offense Ranking OFF RNK N/A N/A
Defense Ranking DEF RNK N/A N/A
Offense Net Yards Per Game OFF NET YPG
Defense Net Yards Per Game DEF NET YPG
Passing Yards Per Game PASS YPG
Turnovers Committed Per Game TOC PG

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