We’ve finally made it! After an exciting regular season in the National Football League, we’ve made the playoffs, and we kick things off with a fantastic AFC double header on Sunday morning (Australia time). First up, Offensive Rookie of the Year in waiting C.J. Stroud and the AFC South Champion Houston Texans will welcome the surging Cleveland Browns to town, with the winner scheduled to head to Baltimore next week if chalk prevails. Then, in what could be the game of the weekend, the Kansas City Chiefs will host the Miami Dolphins, in what is being predicted as one of the coldest games in the history of the NFL.
Below, we will dissect the matchups, previewing how we think things will play out, and give out our Best Bet. Make sure you are following BeforeYouBet, as we will have dedicated Match Previews for the entire post season, and it’s all for free!
NFL Playoffs - Wildcard Round - Sunday Betting Tips
Cleveland Browns at Houston Texans
NRG Stadium, Sunday 14th January, 8:30am (AEDT)
The Browns booked their ticket to the post-season two weeks ago, after hammering the Jets 37-20. With their seeding (5th) assured, the Browns chose to rest players in week 18 of the regular season, which could come in handy moving forward. The Browns have famously utilised five starting quarterbacks this season, with Head Coach Kevin Stefanski doing a magnificent job keeping the team together. The fact that he’s brought 38-year-old quarterback Joe Flacco off the couch and integrated him seamlessly into the offense is a credit to both guys. Despite their offense looking great with Flacco under center, it’s the Browns defensive unit that will get most of the plaudits. Whilst they did concede an NFL average points per game, this doesn’t tell the whole story, as they are a top two defensive unit by more advanced stats like DVOA and expected points added. If they are to go deep in the playoffs, it’s the defence that’s expected to step up.
As for the Texans, they left their run to the last minute, with a winner stays and loser goes home matchup last week with the Colts. The Colts had a chance to win late, but ultimately couldn’t get it done. The following day, the Jaguars lost to the Titans, confirming an unlikely AFC South title to the Texans, their first since 2019. The Texans were ridiculed during the draft, taking C.J. Stroud who was thought of as a bust waiting to happen, and then trading up to take Will Anderson at 3. Both decisions proved to be master strokes, as Stroud is all but assured of being named Offensive Rookie of the Year, whilst Anderson has a chance at winning Defensive Rookie of the Year. New Head Coach Demeco Ryans is also a favourite to win Coach of the Year, so a fantastic year all round for this franchise. The Texans rank around average on both offense and defence, however with a game changer at quarterback, have played above expectation this year.
Jack Conklin / Jedrick Wills / Dawand Jones / Drew Forbes (OT) – OUT
Jakeem Grant / Michael Woods II (WR) – OUT
Nick Chubb (RB) – OUT
Deshaun Watson / Dorian Thompson-Robinson (QB) – OUT
Maurice Hurst (DT) – OUT
Kareem Hunt / Pierre Strong Jr. (RB) – Questionable
Amari Cooper / Marquise Goodwin / Cedric Tillman (WR) – Questionable
Myles Garrett (DE) – Questionable
Juan Thornhill / Grant Delpit (SAF) – Questionable
Ethan Pocic (C) – Questionable
Kilian Zierer / DJ Scaife Jr, Tytus Howard, Kenyon Green (OT) – OUT
Scott Quessenberry / Jarrett Patterson (C) – OUT
Jesse Matthews / Tank Dell (WR) – OUT
Kendrick Green (G) – OUT
Hassan Ridgeway (DT) – OUT
Jimmie Ward / M.J. Stewart (SAF) – OUT
Will Anderson / Jonathan Greenard (DE) – Questionable
Sheldon Rankins / Maliek Collins (DT) – Questionable
Noah Brown / Robert Woods (WR) – Questionable
Michael Deiter (C) – Questionable
These teams met just three short weeks ago, with the Browns going into NRG Stadium and hammering the Texans 36-22. It should be noted that the Texans started Case Keenum at quarterback, before he was replaced in the fourth quarter by Davis Mills. Mills managed to lead the Texans to 15 unanswered points in garbage time, but it didn’t change the result. The Browns closed 3-point favourites in that matchup, with a total of 40. Both numbers were confirmed as completely wrong, but more on that later. I won’t take much from this matchup regarding the Texans, however Joe Flacco showed he can attack this defence with relative ease. If Amari Cooper is fit (he went for 265 yards and 2 touchdowns in week 16), the Browns should once again be able to score in this contest.
The spread for this game opened Browns as 1.5-point favourites, with early money coming in to push it up towards 3. The market never got to a flat 3, and the Browns remain a juiced 2.5-point favourite on the road. This is interesting, given the closing number just 3 weeks ago with Case Keenum as quarterback, showing just how far the market has upgraded the Browns, given the downgrade from Stroud to Keenum is at least 4 points. I make the Browns a small favourite, and despite not having a numbers edge, have already bet the Browns.
As for the total, it opened at 43.5, a full 3.5 points higher than the closing total three weeks ago. It has been slowly bet up to 44.5, where it currently sits. My fair total is 44, however if I had to bet a side of the total, it would be the over. Whilst the Texans do tend to play slowly, the Browns offense right now is humming, and their defence tends to struggle on the road, compared to at home.
I believe the best bet in this game right now is the Browns to go over their current team total. They have averaged 28.6 points per game with Joe Flacco at quarterback, and in ideal conditions inside NRG Stadium, and a banged-up Texans defence, I like the Browns to get to at least 24 points in this one.
Cleveland Browns (team total) over 23.5
$2 (1.5 Units)
Miami Dolphins at Kansas City Chiefs
GEHA Field, Sunday 14th January, 12:00pm (AEDT)
The Dolphins had the AFC East and #2 seed on their racquet last week, as they hosted the Buffalo Bills in week 18. Miami was ahead 14-7 at the half, almost in spite of themselves, as the Bills were the far better team, that just happened to keep blowing scoring opportunities. The better team eventually won, with the Dolphins closing out the season with a 21-14 loss, and a trip to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs in Wild Card week. The Dolphins showed all season they were an offense to be reckoned with, and with their defence improving throughout the season, expectations were growing. However, several key injuries down the stretch have severely handicapped the Dolphins, who look likely to be one and done in the playoffs.
As for the Chiefs, they have struggled on offense all season, managing only 21.8 points per game, good for 15th best in the NFL. They were helped through the season with a much-improved defence, ranking 7th in total defensive DVOA, whilst conceding the second least number of points per game (17.3). Mahomes has not been helped on offense, with his receivers coughing up the most drops in the NFL, some in farcical circumstances. Travis Kelce has also heavily regressed this season, and Mahomes will be desperate to get Kelce back to somewhere near his best for the playoffs. If not, I can’t see the Chiefs getting much further than the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
Keion Crossen (DB) – OUT
Salvon Ahmed (RB) – OUT
Jaelan Phillips / Bradley Chubb / Jerome Baker / Andrew Van Ginkel (OLB) – OUT
Connor Williams / Isaiah Wynn (OG) – OUT
Erik Ezukanma (WR) – OUT
Cameron Goode (LB) – OUT
Xavien Howard (CB) – Doubtful
Liam Eichenberg / Terron Armstead (OL) – Questionable
De’Von Achane / Raheem Mostert (RB) – Questionable
Tyreek Hill (WR) – Questionable
DeShon Elliott / Jevon Holland (SAF) – Questionable
Jalen Ramsey (CB) – Questionable
Kansas City Chiefs
Skyy Moore (WR) – OUT
Bryan Cook (SAF) – OUT
Prince Tago Wanogho (OT) – OUT
Jerrick McKinnon (RB) – OUT
Kadarius Toney / Justyn Ross (WR) – Questionable
Donovan Smith / Wanya Morris (OT) – Questionable
These teams met back in week 9 in Germany, with the Chiefs running out 21-14 winners. In what was a very uninspiring game early, the Chiefs managed a touchdown with just over two minutes left in the first half to go up 14-0. Then, with just 54 seconds left in the half, Tyreek Hill fumbled. It was recovered by Kansas City, who took the recovery in for a touchdown. Up 21-0 at the half, the Chiefs would have been a little nervous late, as the Dolphins cut the deficit to 7, but they were never able to bridge the gap. The Dolphins closed 1-point favourite at the neutral venue, showing how each team was viewed at the halfway mark of the season.
Zoom forward two months, and the Chiefs opened 3.5-point favourites at home. This has since been bumped up to 4.5, with the Dolphins dealing with a multitude of big-name injuries. At full strength, I make these teams almost identical, meaning that even if you give the Chiefs the full 2.5 points for home field advantage, this number has pushed out quite a way to 4.5, with the Dolphins representing some value. The injuries are a concern though, and I’ll probably pass at this time.
The total opened 44.5 and has been bet down slightly to 44. This is in stark contrast to their earlier meeting, which closed 51.5. I think most would agree that 51.5 is an unrealistic mark for this game, with 44 being much closer to a fair total in my opinion. With the weather expected to be below freezing, if there is any type of decent wind, this could be an extremely low scoring game.
I’ll take the under in the matchup. With both teams struggling offensively of late, the weather looking unkind to any sort of offensive gameplan, and injuries aplenty for the Dolphins, I expect a very similar matchup to the one in week 9. The Chiefs will get out to an early lead and sit on it behind the run game of Pacheco.
Under 44 points
$1.91 (1.5 Units)