Eli’s NFL Wild Card Picks & Best Bets: Will Packers, Dolphins Cover Spread Odds?

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Written By Eli Hershkovich | Last Updated
Packers Anytime Touchdown

As NFL playoffs odds near kickoff, this article assists bettors with price discovery and handicapping point spreads, moneyline odds, and totals while shopping at the best betting sites. In particular, the Dolphins at Chiefs and Packers at Cowboys stand out — compared to my betting model. With that in mind, let’s break down my NFL Super Wild Card Weekend best bets.

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

Bet: dolphins to lose by four 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 Chiefs’ odds, they opened as 1.5-point home favorites before rising to . The narrative around Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in poor conditions, along with their defensive injuries, were significant variables within this line movement. But I’m fading the market for the first of my NFL Wild Card best bets.

Why Spread Is Inflated

Kansas City’s renowned defensive refinement has come largely against the pass. Conversely, the Chiefs possess a bottom-10 ranking in rush defense DVOA and EPA per carry allowed. The former category refers to the efficiency of plays that are adjusted based on the game situation, such as the score and time remaining.

That plays right into Miami’s hands. Employing the zone run scheme, which Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel carried over from his 49ers tenure, Miami has collected the most explosive runs in the NFL. Unsurprisingly, Kansas City ranks league average at stopping them. With Raheem Mostert (knee/ankle) set to return after missing Week 18, he and speedy rookie De’Von Achane should continue to exploit the Chiefs in the trenches.

Assuming the run game remains efficient, the Dolphins can utilize their clock-draining tempo. For context, they rank No. 26 in adjusted pace, ultimately favoring the underdog. Theoretically, that takes the pressure off Tagovailoa, yet he’s thrived against similarly constructed defenses.

Not only has he tallied the second-highest QBR against man coverage, which Kansas City has a tendency to deploy, but he’s also the top-rated signal-caller against the blitz. Kansas City defensive coordinator Steve Spagnolo has made a living off pressuring the opposition, sending five or more rushers at the seventh-highest clip this season. If Miami can steer clear of a negative game script, Tagovailoa won’t be fazed by the weather as much as the market expects.

When the Chiefs upended the Dolphins in Week 9, Tagovailoa accrued 34 pass attempts at Tottenham Hotspur New Stadium — in large part because of a 21-point deficit. Kansas City was aided by Tyreek Hill‘s fumble before halftime, resulting in a scoop and score. Bear in mind that the spread closed as a pick’em at some shops, and Miami nearly overcame the deficit behind 5.6 YPC.

Not Your Average Chiefs

Over the last five years, Patrick Mahomes & Co. strung together the most EPA per play among any offense. However, they rank No. 11 in that department this season. In particular, the blend of aging tight end Travis Kelce with an inexperienced group of wideouts has resulted in a league-high 44 drops. Their red-zone efficiency (54.1%) has fallen to the middle of the pack, too.

While Dolphins defensive coordinator Vic Fangio will need a dose of creativity without Jaelan Phillips, Bradley Chubb, and Andrew Van Ginkel to manufacture pressure, Miami’s (primarily) man coverage should still give Mahomes fits. The two-time NFL MVP has been more proficient against zone looks, which adds up given Kansas City’s inadequate explosive playmakers.

A potentially sluggish offensive output provides the Dolphins with an even greater probability of hanging around.

STATS
Dolphins logo Dolphins MIA
Chiefs logo Chiefs KC
Offense Ranking OFF RNK 6th 1st
Defense Ranking DEF RNK 18th 11th
Offense Net Yards Per Game OFF NET YPG 364.5 413.6
Defense Net Yards Per Game DEF NET YPG 337.8 328.2
Passing Yards Per Game PASS YPG 265.4 297.8
Turnovers Committed Per Game TOC PG 1.2 1.4

Final Thoughts

Some bettors will wait to back Miami until wide receivers Tyreek Hill (quad) and Jaylen Waddle (ankle) are cleared, but their impending status could also trigger a market move toward the Dolphins. Hence, I’ve already bet the road underdog. 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.

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Bet: packers to lose by seven or fewer points (or win outright)

Unlike the first Super Wild Card Weekend contest, this spread has only risen a half-point in Dallas’ direction. Yet, this shift above the key number of a touchdown has created value with the Packers’ odds, as my model makes this line closer to Cowboys -5.5.

Packers’ Offense Undervalued

Although Cowboys signal-caller Dak Prescott was once the MVP betting favorite, his counterpart Jordan Love deserves his fair share of praise as well. Since midseason, Love owns the second-highest EPA + completion percentage over expected (CPOE) composite rating — with Prescott finishing ahead of him.

On the flip side, the Cowboys’ defense is reliant on producing pressure. It’s an instrumental reason why they’re tied for the third-highest turnover differential (+10). Nevertheless, the Packers have compiled the second-ranked pas-block win rate. In fact, Love’s developmental timeline correlates with when their offensive line became healthier.

As long as Love isn’t constantly under duress, he’ll continue to flourish against a secondary that ranks No. 29 in dropback success rate allowed since Week 12. For reference, a play is deemed successful if it dials up at least 50% of the required yards to move the chains on first down, 70% on second down, or 100% on third or fourth down. Love is elite against man coverage, to boot.

Additionally, Dallas’ defense ranks dead last in rushing success rate allowed. For much of the season, Green Bay may have struggled to exploit this aspect of Dan Quinn‘s unit. But a now-healthy Aaron Jones, who dealt with lingering hamstring and knee injuries, has altered their fortune in that regard. Jones should also assist the Packers with grinding the clock, considering they operate at a below-average adjusted pace.

Wild Card Against Prescott

There’s no hiding the Packers’ most glaring liability. Under defensive coordinator Joe Barry, they’ve represented an annual run funnel for the opposition. Prescott shouldn’t have any problem dicing up their soft zone defense, either.

But versus the Bears in their regular season finale, Barry brought a handful of five-man pressure looks at Justin Fields while playing man coverage behind it. This design routinely worked, amassing a handful of sacks in the process. The Cowboys’ pass protection is generally seen as a reliable bunch, yet Prescott racked up his highest sack rate (6.2%) since 2018.

Don’t be shocked if Barry returns to the well in hopes of confusing Prescott, who has historically performed a tad worse against man-to-man formations.

STATS
Packers logo Packers GB
Cowboys logo Cowboys DAL
Offense Ranking OFF RNK 17th 11th
Defense Ranking DEF RNK 17th 12th
Offense Net Yards Per Game OFF NET YPG 337.9 354.9
Defense Net Yards Per Game DEF NET YPG 336.5 330.2
Passing Yards Per Game PASS YPG 213.6 219.8
Turnovers Committed Per Game TOC PG 1.3 1.4

Final Thoughts

If the market winds up taking a liking to the Packers later in the week, I’d play them down to +7 (-110). Good luck with your NFL Wild Card best bets.

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