The month of December continued to treat Green Bay well, as the Packers saw the Giants, Commanders, Seahawks, and Lions all drop games on Christmas Eve before the Packers continued their surge up the NFL standings in Miami on Sunday.
Green Bay’s performance was hardly stellar, as the Packers relied on three fourth-quarter interceptions of Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to secure the win. Tagovailoa’s collapse aside, however, Green Bay has given themselves a shot to get in the tournament, and as we’ve seen in this NFL season, anything can happen at that point.
With eight of the fourteen playoff spots and four of the eight division titles secured, we will take a look at the odds in the Wild Card races and the battles for the division crowns, but before we do, be sure to sign up for The Oracle’s picks today! The Oracle has put together an outstanding 2022 and is all set to keep rolling into 2023, so sign up and get all the best picks sent your way on New Year’s Weekend.
Now, on to the NFL’s Wild Card races. All odds are from DraftKings.
AFC: Will Miami Hang On?
The Chargers, who face the Colts on Monday Night Football before finishing with the Rams and Broncos, are off the board on “To Make the Playoffs” odds on DraftKings. After the previously 7-7 Patriots, Jets, and Titans fell to 7-8 on Sunday, the 8-6 Chargers are close to assured of a spot. The same is not true for the Dolphins, who have lost four straight to end up at 8-7 ahead of their last two games, a road trip to New England followed by a home game against the Jets.
Miami is -225 to make the playoffs, the Jets are +500, and the Patriots +650, with the AFC South tandem of Jacksonville (-225) and Tennessee (+175) rounding out the field. However, the South teams are less of a concern for Miami, as the Jaguars and Titans will face off in Week 18, making it impossible for both teams, who are currently 7-8, to reach 9 wins.
That means that if Miami takes care of business against New England this weekend, they may head into Week 18 with their playoff berth secured, but if they lose, any number of scenarios open up for Week 18. Miami is a one-point favorite on the road at New England this week; if they can pull out the victory, the losing streak will fade to memory, but if the Patriots win, the Dolphins may be asking a lot of questions about what might have been when they are sitting at home in mid-January.
NFC: Packers Set to Finish Rally?
Green Bay needs to win out against Minnesota and Detroit to get in the tournament, and in that scenario, would need Washington to lose to either Cleveland or Dallas, or for the Giants to lose out in games against the Colts and Eagles.
The Packers have needed about a dozen games to go their way over the past month, but with the Giants, Commanders, and Seahawks all in free fall, it’s looking more and more likely that they will get the help they need. The matter of how dangerous the Packers will be depends on several factors, including returns to health for left tackle David Bakhtiari, who is recovering from appendicitis, and rookie receiver Christian Watson, who left the Miami game with a hip injury.
Of course, Green Bay still needs to get past the Vikings and Lions, and if Detroit beats Chicago this weekend, that Week 18 game in Green Bay could decide the 7th playoff spot. The Lions produced a clunker on the road at Carolina, a disappointing performance for a team that had won 6 of 7, with their only loss coming by 3, but Chicago’s defense could prove to be the perfect “get-right” game for Jared Goff and the rest of the Lions offense.
DraftKings has the odds to make the playoffs for the Giants at -1000, Washington at +175, Green Bay at +175, and Detroit at +350 (the Seahawks are currently off the board). After Taylor Heinicke was benched for Carson Wentz amidst a blowout loss to the 49ers, taking Washington to miss the NFL Playoffs at -225 might be the best play of the bunch, but if you go that direction, it probably makes sense to lay money on either the Packers or Lions to make the field ahead of the Commanders.
The South Crowns
The AFC North and NFC East remain up for grabs, but the contenders (Cincinnati and Baltimore, Philadelphia and Dallas) all have their playoff spots secured. Things look a bit different in the AFC and NFC South, where the division crown and associated playoff spot are set to head down to the wire.
It is possible that the Titans, who are on a five-game losing streak after dropping a game to Houston and will be without quarterback Ryan Tannehill the rest of the way, lose to the Cowboys this week, but even in that scenario, a Tennessee victory in Week 18 could leave the Jags and Titans with the same record and a head-to-head split. However, given how these teams have trended for the past month, it seems far more likely that the Jaguars beat the Texans this week and the Titans in Week 18 to secure the first AFC South crown of the Trevor Lawrence era.
The NFC South is coming off one of its better weeks of the season, with the Panthers picking up a decisive victory over the Lions behind a dominant ground performance, the Saints getting the best of the Browns in a Cleveland windstorm, and the Buccaneers pulling out an overtime win over Trace McSorley and the Cardinals.
The latter game is a reminder that nobody is likely to contend out of the NFC South, but this week’s showdown between the Panthers and Buccaneers will be the key matchup in determining who gets that chance. The game shockingly opened at TB -7 ahead of the weekend, a ridiculously pro-Tom Brady line that was at TB -3.5 by the time the dust had settled on Monday morning, but given how the Buccaneers have played this season, particularly in their 21-3 loss to the Panthers earlier in the year, that spread seems high.
If you like the Panthers to win outright, Carolina’s +400 odds to make the playoffs are the play over Tampa Bay’s -500 odds to get in the tournament. A Panthers win this week would put Carolina and Tampa Bay with the same record, but the Panthers would have the head-to-head tiebreaker. Carolina would still need to get by New Orleans in Week 18 while Tampa Bay faces off with the Falcons, but the Panthers have the most momentum of any NFC South team.
Steven Clinton, better known as "The Professor", is a former D-1 Quality Control Assistant (Northwestern, Toledo) who holds a B.A. in Economics and M.S. in Predictive Analytics from Northwestern University. He maintains an end-to-end NFL game projection model and is a film junkie who breaks down the tape of every NFL game.