The final week of the 2020-21 NFL season is upon us! There is still plenty on the line for a lot of teams and rather than taking a look at individual games this week, we have decided to preview each conference as a whole and give our betting tips for some of the important games in the context of the playoff picture.
Let’s start off with the AFC playoff picture. Kansas City has locked up the first seed and the bye that comes with it. Buffalo and Pittsburgh have secured the 2nd and 3rd seed, although they can still swap between those two seeding places. After them, there is a log jam of five teams at 10-5, all of whom are fighting for four playoffs spots. One of those teams will miss out.
Jaguars at Colts
Tennessee, Miami, Baltimore and Cleveland hold the tiebreakers, so all those four teams will need to do is win this weekend to secure a place in the playoffs. The Colts are the fifth team, so they will need to win and hope that one of the other teams loses their Week 17 matchup to sneak into one of the wildcard positions. Luckily for the Colts, they face off against the 1-14 Jaguars, who have not won a game since all the way back in Week 1. Coincidentally, that win came against the Colts, but I can’t see them coming close this week with the Colts desperately needing to win this one.
Steelers at Browns
The Steelers and Browns square off in a big NFC North battle. The Steelers have announced that backup quarterback Mason Rudolph will start the game, as they have already secured their playoff spot and can’t drop any lower than the third seed. This helps the Browns in their quest to win and clinch a playoff spot of their own, but I don’t think it helps to the tune of the 10 point spread that has been allocated to the game at the moment. The Steelers defence has been solid even throughout their rough patch of the season. They are 9-6 against the spread and should play Cleveland pretty tough despite some starters being rested.
Dolphins at Bills
The Dolphins and Bills will square off in a big AFC East battle and while the blueprint has already been laid out for the Steelers starters, Buffalo is less certain on whether their starters will play or not. It’s still undecided, which is why the Bills are currently 1 point favourites. With the announcement recently that the Steelers will rest their starters, I expect the Bills to follow suit, which should tilt this line in favour of the Dolphins. They are away from home but back the Dolphins now for value before it moves likely four or five points in their favour.
In the NFC, there are eight teams still in the hunt for the playoffs, with just four teams having already clinched a playoff berth. The Packers currently sit atop the conference and if they win this week or Seattle lose, they will have the first round bye. New Orleans and Seattle will have home field advantage in the first round at the minimum, but either could finish with the first seed if results go their way. Tampa Bay have locked in their place in the playoffs but the remaining five sides in Washington, L.A. Rams, Chicago, Arizona and Dallas will be fighting for three spots.
Cardinals at Rams
The game of the week sees the Rams and Cardinals facing off in a loser goes home clash. The Rams currently have the slight edge at 9-6, but if the Cardinals win against them on Sunday they will jump above them and if Chicago also beats Green Bay, it will see the Rams out of the playoffs. Both teams will be going all out in that fixture, so the intensity should be extremely high. In Cardinals and Rams games combined this season, the total is 9-20-1 in favour of the under, back this one to be low scoring as well.
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Washington at Eagles
It’s a simple equation for Washington. Win against the Eagles on the weekend and secure a place in the playoffs. Lose, and the fate of their season is out of their hands. The Eagles have been horrendous of late, losing 6 of their last 7 games and have slipped all the way to second last spot in the conference. The Eagles have no reason to win this game, as they’ll want to finish as low in the standings as possible in an attempt to get a high draft pick. Washington will win this game and should comfortably cover the 1.5 point spread.
New Orleans at Carolina
The Saints bounced back from a two game losing streak with a win over the Vikings on the weekend to keep their hopes of finishing with the top seed in the NFC alive. They currently sit one game behind the Packers, and can jump up into top spot with a win and a Packers loss to the Bears. The Saints are 8-6-1 against the spread this season and start as 6.5 point favourite here. Back them to win in a big game for their playoff expectations.
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