The NFL is arguably the most popular sports league in the United States. The Super Bowl pulls in billions of dollars in sports betting each year. Many different sportsbooks host legal online betting options throughout the Playoffs leading up to the big game. Las Vegas sportsbooks are the only land based operation in the US where you can place a bet, otherwise bettors use licensed offshore sportsbooks. With the current sports betting law facing potential repeal, perhaps a high number of NFL bets could push the league into a more embracive stance.
NFL viewership has been down, but a few new fresh faces in the Playoffs provide more competition and a more watchable postseason. The Playoff-mainstays are there, like the New England Patriots (AFC East Division champions, 1st round bye) and the Pittsburgh Steelers (AFC North champions, 1st round bye), but there are some teams who have been out of the Playoffs for some time now. The Philadelphia Eagles (NFC East champions, 1st round bye) and Minnesota Vikings (NFC North champions, 1st round bye), Tennessee Titans (Wild Card), Jacksonville Jaguars (AFC South champions), Los Angeles Rams (NFC West champions), Buffalo Bills (Wild Card), Carolina Panthers (Wild Card) and New Orleans Saints (NFC South champions) are all outside contenders in this year’s Playoffs. Notable Playoff absences include Green Bay, Baltimore, Seattle, Dallas, Cincinnati, New York (Giants) and Denver.
The Wild Card Round features the Titans v. Chiefs, Atlanta Falcons v. Rams, Bills v. Jaguars and Panthers v. Saints. Each one of these games has the potential to be great. Several teams will be playing for their lives, as these particular franchises have gone through some serious Playoff droughts (i.e. the Bills), but there are some fierce competitors in their way.
The Chiefs are favored to win over the Titans. While Tennessee’s run game is their strongest point and Kansas City’s run defense is their weakest, the Titans still do not have enough to beat the red-hot Chiefs, especially with Demarco Murray potentially out. Regarding QBs, both have their struggles, but the Chiefs’ Alex Smith has more experience and is more consistent. The Chiefs also have TE Travis Kelce, a factor that the Titans’ defense may not be equipped to deal with.
The Atlanta Falcons narrowly made the Playoffs and do not look anywhere near where they were last year. They have talent in QB Matt Ryan, RB Devonta Freeman and WR Julio Jones, and they have postseason experience (they were in Super Bowl LI), but something is missing for Atlanta. Meanwhile, the Rams are enjoying their best season in years. QB Jared Goff has finally come into his own under new coach Sean McVay and RB Todd Gurley has made a strong case for MVP this season. Some analysts are expecting the Falcons to pull off the upset, but the Rams are favored in most legal online sportsbooks.
Buffalo and Jacksonville is the matchup of teams you’d never think would make the Playoffs. Buffalo had a 14.8% chance to make the postseason and they pulled it off with a win over the Dolphins and the Bengals upsetting the Ravens. Now, Buffalo has its first Playoff berth since 1999. The Jaguars are enjoying their best season since 2007 and are favored to win over Buffalo in this matchup. If QB Blake Bortles can keep it together, the Jaguars’ defense should take care of the rest.
The Panthers and Saints are up against each other in the Wild Card round and New Orleans has the advantage. They’ve already won against the Panthers twice this season, and while the entire division has been shaky, the Saints look like the best team. Their #2 offense and #7 defense should be enough to roll over the Panthers on their way to the divisional around.
The real question is if any of these teams have it takes to beat the teams with a first-round bye. The AFC will be particularly difficult with both Pittsburgh and New England looming. Playoff action starts this weekend so be sure to get your bets in now. The NFL postseason betting stats will likely reveal the demand for more legal betting options in the US, and if the federal ban is repealed, fans may just get what they want.