Well, it was a crazy ride that ended up with more than a few twists and turns on the final weekend of the National Football League 2021 season.
But we got here: WELCOME TO THE NFL PLAYOFFS!!!
It was fitting that the final contest of the year played out the way it did, with all kinds of conspiracy theories, subterfuge, and madness that ended with an overtime kick on LITERALLY the final second of the entire campaign. When that kick split the uprights, it finalized the NFL postseason picture and set up what might be the most wide-open tournament in recent memory.
There are going to be a lot of people that will tell you that the second seeds in each conference are the ACTUAL favorites ahead of the top seeds: but really, can you blame those people? The two seed in the AFC is the two-time defending AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs, while the second seed in the NFC is the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
We will see both of those teams in action on this Wild Card Weekend, while the top seeds, Tennessee and Green Bay, sit out and get healthy.
Kansas City and Tampa Bay have the two largest lines this weekend, as both are taking on the seventh-seeded teams. The Chiefs are already 13-point favorites against Big Ben and the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the Bucs are headed towards a double-digit line against the surprising Philadelphia Eagles.
Three of the other games are rivalry contests. There are two intra-division battles, one in each conference. Los Angeles (not the Chargers, because they got knocked out Sunday night) will host Arizona in the NFC 4-5 game, while New England will travel to icy Buffalo and try to stun the Bills again in the AFC 3-6 contest.
Maybe the best game of the weekend harkens back to the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, as the Dallas Cowboys host the San Francisco 49ers. Now, I vaguely remember watching the early 1980s games, and I have some recall of the late 1980s battles. But I have vivid recollections of the games between these two teams in the early to mid-1990s: I was in college in New York around people that bet a little bit (A LOT) and I might have (I did, duh) learned how to wager on games as well. I can see this being the best contest of the weekend.
The only game I have yet to mention should be very interesting as well. Las Vegas had to basically win four-straight playoff games to even get in the postseason, and they did just that. Now, the Raiders get to take on one of the upstart AFC teams, Cincinnati, in the contest that will kick off the weekend. So the two games that will bookend the weekend might have 50+ points at halftime, and in between, we have rivalries, football heritage, and a lot of intriguing wagers.
I am ready for this! Are you?
Oh, and welcome to all my New York peeps. Bing Bong.
NFL Wild Card Weekend Odds
Here are your updated NFL Wild Card odds, all in one place. Check back daily to see updates.
5-Las Vegas Raiders (10-7) at 4-Cincinnati Bengals (10-7), 4:30 p.m. EST (NBC and fubo.TV)
Well, you are not going to find a more dramatic entrance into the playoffs than the one just achieved by the Raiders, and I am not even talking about the Week 18 near collapse. Las Vegas was 6-7 after a 48-9 pasting by the Chiefs, and then won four games in a row by a total of 12 points to make the postseason.
But now they have to play the upstart AFC North champion Bengals, a proposition that did not go so well in November. Cincinnati won that game 32-13, and will want to repeat that performance. I guess we will see here just how much weight momentum actually carries in the NFL.
6-New England Patriots (10-7) at 3-Buffalo Bills (11-6), 8:15 p.m. EST (CBS and fubo.TV)
We have seen this game twice so far this season, with very different outcomes. The two teams each won on the road, but it is the Bills that come into this contest on a roll and as AFC East champs, while the Pats lost three of four over the final month.
Once again, will momentum carry over, or will Bill Belichick shut that down as well?
Read more about this in our Best Bets for Saturday Night Football Guide.
7-Philadelphia Eagles (9-8) at 2-Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-4), 1 p.m. EST (FOX and fubo.TV)
These two teams met back in mid-October in Philadelphia (with me in attendance), and the score was not indicative of the actual game. It was 28-7 Tampa late in the third quarter until the Eagles rallied late to lose 28-22 (and cover the +6.5).
But if it was not for a missed call or two, this game would have been a 35-7 final. Philadelphia is banged up, and while the Bucs might be too, they also have the best quarterback to ever play the game looking to lead his second franchise to back-to-back Super Bowl titles. I don’t see how you can pick the Eagles here unless this line goes above -10.
6-San Francisco 49ers (10-7) at 3-Dallas Cowboys (12-5), 4:30 p.m. EST (CBS and fubo.TV)
The 49ers were another team that had to win to get in the playoffs, and it looked bleak for them down 17-3 at halftime. But San Fran rallied behind Jimmy Garoppolo, and the Rams play calling got (VERY) conservative, sending the game to overtime. San Fran won, and is now in the playoffs as a DANGEROUS team.
People were laughing at Dallas for playing its starters on Saturday in Philadelphia, but the Cowboys got MOMENTUM, and also moved up a seeding line from four to three (not sure if that is better or worse). This really could be the best game of the weekend and will be full of intrigue. I am really excited about this one, and I think San Fran has a big chance here.
7-Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7-1) at 2-Kansas City Chiefs (12-5), 8:15 p.m. EST (NBC and fubo.TV)
These two teams played a few weeks ago, and it was an ugly loss for the Steelers. Pittsburgh is going to have to play orders of magnitude better to even have a shot in this contest, and it will also need to have KC play very much down to its opponent.
After the slow start to the season for the Chiefs, I do not see that happening. Kansas City should roll here.
Read more about this in our Best Bets & Odds Sunday Night Football Guide.
5-Arizona Cardinals (11-6) at 4-Los Angeles Rams (12-5), 8:15 p.m. EST (ESPN and fubo.TV)
These two teams have flip-flopped positions over the second half of the season, some of which was down to injuries, while it may have been down to inexperience.
But do we really have confidence in either of these teams right now to make a deep run in the playoffs? Arizona is in this spot for the first time, while the Rams do not look like a very confident team. I will probably take the points and the over here.
Read more about this game in our Best Bets for Monday Night Football guide.