The longest regular season in history came down to an exciting finish. The final two playoff spots in the AFC came down to a last-second field goal by the Las Vegas Raiders and a stunning upset when the Jaguars beat the Colts.
After looking at NFL betting lines, here are my best bets for the first round of the NFL playoffs.
Patriots at Bills (-4.5)
- Date: Saturday, Jan. 15
- Time: 8:15 P.M. EST on CBS
- Venue: Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, NY
- Participants: New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills
These divisional rivals will meet for the third time this year in the first round of the playoffs. The Buffalo Bills and their top-ranked defense (272.8 yards allowed per game) have won four games in a row to win the AFC East. During their four-game winning streak, the offense averaged 30 points per game.
In their first game against each other, the Bills lost to the New England Patriots 14-10. Buffalo returned the favor by winning in Foxboro 33-21.
The Bills and Patriots are ranked first and second in pass defense, respectively. Buffalo is 13th against the run, which is a considerable edge considering that New England averages 28.8 rushes per game, or eighth-most in the league. Buffalo has the top-ranked passing defense, allowing just 163 yards per game. Over the past three games, it’s only allowed 104.3 passing yards on average.
If Buffalo can force the Patriots to rely on rookie QB Mac Jones, I believe that they’ll have the upper hand because of their pass defense. I’m taking the Bills to win by more than a touchdown.
Eagles at Buccaneers (-8.5)
- Date: Sunday, Jan. 16
- Time: 1:00 P.M. EST on FOX
- Venue: Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL
- Participants: Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
With 5,316 passing yards and 43 TD passes, it’s hard to see how the Philadelphia Eagles will stop Tom Brady on Sunday. The Eagles have allowed 28 passing touchdowns this season, which is the 12th-highest in the NFL. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have averaged 33.6 points and 320.3 passing yards in their last three games.
Brady still has weapons without running back Leonard Fournette and WR Chris Godwin, and the team has an opportunistic defense that can create extra scoring opportunities for the offense. Tampa Bay has the sixth-best turnover differential at +10.
The Eagles have the first-ranked rushing offense (159.7 yards per game), but the Buccaneers allow the third-fewest rushing yards per game. I’m taking Tampa Bay to win easily and cover.
Steelers at Chiefs (-12.5)
- Date: Sunday, Jan. 16
- Time: 8:15 P.M. EST on NBC
- Venue: GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MI
- Participants: Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs
The Pittsburgh Steelers made it to the playoffs thanks to an overtime win over the Ravens, a shocking upset by the Jaguars over the Colts and a Raiders victory over the Chargers. With a scoring offense that ranks 21st in the NFL, I don’t believe that the Steelers can score enough to keep up with the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Chiefs are fourth in scoring (28.2 points per game) and fourth in passing yards (281.8 per game).
Even though Pittsburgh is ninth against the pass, the team is last in the NFL against the run. While Kansas City only averages 115 rushing yards on the season, they’ve averaged 139 yards during their previous three games.
Another issue for Pittsburgh is its tendency toward slow starts. Pittsburgh has scored the second-fewest points in the NFL throughout the first half of its games, while Kansas City has scored the third-most. If Pittsburgh gets off to another slow start and has to abandon their running game, I see Kansas City running away with this game.
Choose Your NFL Best Bets
The road to Super Bowl LVI kicks off with some intriguing matchups this week. Who are your NFL best bets for the opening round? Create an account at BetMGM’s online sports betting site to make your picks for this week’s NFL playoff games. Sign up today, and you can receive a $1,000 risk-free initial bet.