Super Wild Card Weekend is upon us, and DraftKings has added to the excitement with a variety of novel bets, including several that cover the whole of Wild Card Weekend. This article will cover Saturday’s games between the Raiders and Bengals and Patriots and Bills before diving into the props for Most Passing Yards and Team Scoring Specials available on DraftKings, while Part Two of The Professor’s NFL Games of the Week will cover the Eagles at Buccaneers, the 49ers at the Cowboys, the Steelers at the Chiefs, and Monday Night’s matchup between the Cardinals and Rams. All spreads and totals are provided by DraftKings.
Las Vegas Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals (CIN -5.5, Total 49)
Saturday’s NFL slate features two games between teams who have seen each other before; in the case of the Raiders and Bengals, the two teams met in Las Vegas in a game that Cincinnati won 32-13 to drop the Raiders to a 5-5 record. At the time, it appeared that the Raiders’ season was headed down the tubes, but Las Vegas shocked Dallas in a Thanksgiving Day matchup a week later, and after a late-season rally, the Raiders are in a position to exact their revenge against the Bengals in the NFL Playoffs.
Quarterback Joe Burrow and his arsenal of pass-catchers have led the way for the Bengals down the stretch, but in the first matchup, it was running back Joe Mixon who set the tone for the orange and black, carrying the ball 30 times for 123 yards and two touchdowns. Some early weather forecasts for this game had indicated that the conditions could be reasonable, but the most recent reports are that there is a strong chance of snow, which could put the onus on Mixon to repeat his performance. Mixon had a relatively quiet finish to the season, but got a game off in Week 18 and should be ready to carry the load this week if needed.
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr has bucked his pattern of cold-weather failures recently, but while Carr won’t enter this game with that monkey on his back, the Raiders play in a dome and don’t have the same opportunity to practice in the cold that the Bengals will this week. Las Vegas could still be competitive, and it helps that running back Josh Jacobs ended the NFL season on fire, but there are questions about whether Las Vegas has the talent on the offensive line to consistently move Cincinnati’s front four. If Jacobs can get to the second level, the sledding should be easier, but if he spends his day avoiding defenders in the backfield, the Raiders could be in for a long night.
The game may come down to which quarterback can produce in the elements, and while Carr has shown that he is a high-quality NFL starter, Burrow is on the rise to superstardom and has a chance to further solidify that status this weekend. Las Vegas has gotten quality performances at cornerback from veteran Casey Hayward and rookie slot Nate Hobbs, but Brandon Facysom and Desmond Trufant, who split time as the third cornerback against the Chargers, were heavily targeted and are likely to see more of the same this week. With Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd at his disposal, Burrow will be able to pick and choose the matchups he wants to target.
New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills (BUF -4, Total 44)
The Patriots and Bills are even more familiar with one another than the Raiders and Bengals, as the AFC East rivals have faced off twice this season on top of past matchups between Bills quarterback Josh Allen and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. The two sides have had an interesting evolution, as Allen tended to revert to his early-career struggles against New England even after he had started playing like an MVP candidate against most of the NFL, but after Allen put the Bills on his back in their most recent win against the Patriots, any lingering doubts Buffalo had about their quarterback’s ability to handle New England have been put to rest. Now Allen will try to replicate that performance in frigid temperatures this weekend; it is a different type of weather than the 50+ mph winds these teams played in during their regular-season game in Buffalo, but no less extreme, with temperatures expected to drop under zero degrees once the sun has set.
New England has indicated they will not change their offensive approach for this game, but that could be a sneaky way of saying that their offensive approach is to change for every game and that this one will be no different. Rookie quarterback Mac Jones will likely need to attempt more than three passes in his second trip to Buffalo, as the Bills are likely to score more points than they did the first time around, but New England’s physical running back tandem of Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson has the potential to wear the Bills defense down, and in a game this cold, no defender is going to want to hit those guys in the fourth quarter.
Buffalo’s offense could help their defense out if they get out to an early lead and push the score, but the NFL season has shown that the Patriots struggle when they can’t play the game on their terms, forcing them to do that is easier said than done. One key difference between these teams is that while parts of New England’s staff and roster have a championship pedigree, their quarterback is starting his first NFL Playoff game on a team that missed the tournament last year, while the bulk of this Buffalo team was around for last year’s run to the AFC Championship. That is a reason for concern, particularly since Jones has not played particularly well dating back to that windstorm game in Buffalo, with his best performance coming in a blowout of the Jaguars. New England’s rookie signal-caller appears to have a bright future regardless of this game, but for the Patriots to compete this weekend, they need Jones to take a significant step forward now, rather than in the offseason.
Most Passing Yards for Super Wild Card Weekend
DraftKings has spiced up Super Wild Card Weekend with several special bets, some on the player level, some on the team level. To kick things off, we will take a look at the odds for the Most Passing Yards on the Weekend and compare them to projections from The Professor’s model while factoring in the weather forecast.
There are several names to eliminate off the bat: Jalen Hurts, Mac Jones, and Jimmy Garoppolo all work in run-heavy systems, which takes them out of the mix, and even diehard Steelers fans might have a hard time getting behind an aging Ben Roethlisberger against the rest of this field.
The rest of the group offers a few potential values. The Professor’s model projects Patrick Mahomes to post the most passing yards, at 304 to Joe Burrow’s 298, and given that Mahomes is expected to play in relatively clear conditions relative to Burrow, The Professor would give him the edge even though Mahomes has slightly longer odds.
The concern with Mahomes is that the Chiefs blew out the Steelers in their first game, and Mahomes only needed to throw for 258 yards to make that happen. The same concern exists for Tom Brady, as Tampa Bay could throttle a Philadelphia team that took advantage of a favorable second-half schedule to make the NFL Playoffs, which leaves us with Matthew Stafford, Dak Prescott, and a pair of dual-threat quarterbacks in Josh Allen and Kyler Murray. The model projects Prescott at 295 passing yards and Stafford at 287; both quarterbacks could end up in a shootout against talented opposition this weekend, but while the Rams should be able to use a balanced attack this week, San Francisco’s front seven may be able to make the Dallas offense one-dimensional and put the game on Prescott’s shoulders. Whether Prescott will rise to the occasion is open for debate, but he is more than capable when he plays to his ceiling, so The Professor will point to Dak Prescott at +750 as his favorite value for this Super Wild Card Weekend prop bet.
Highest and Lowest-Scoring Teams on Wild Card Weekend
The Chiefs, Buccaneers, and Rams are the front-runners to be the highest-scoring team this weekend, while the Steelers, Patriots, and Eagles have the shortest odds to be the lowest-scoring team, but The Professor’s model indicates there may be values outside of the obvious plays. This may be stating the obvious, but to be the highest or lowest scoring team of the weekend, a team has to win or lose their game, so it is important to consider each team’s odds of winning alongside their projected score.
The weather in Cincinnati complicates matters, but the Professor’s model (which assumes neutral weather) projects the Bengals to score the most points of the weekend, which is one reason to take Cincinnati at +550, the fourth-longest odds for the highest-scoring team. Running back Joe Mixon ran all over Las Vegas in the first matchup, which came at a time when quarterback Joe Burrow and the passing game were working to find their rhythm; now that the aerial attack is hitting on all cylinders, the Bengals are a tough offense to match up against, and as a 5.5 point favorite, they fit the bill as a team likely to win.
The Professor’s model agrees with the rankings for the lowest scoring teams, with the Steelers, Patriots, and Eagles coming in with the three lowest score projections, but The Professor would focus on the Steelers and Eagles from that group, as the Pennsylvania teams are less likely to pull off an upset victory than the Patriots, at least according to the spreads on DraftKings. While the three favorites (or anti-favorites, given the nature of this bet) are strong plays for the lowest-scoring team, Buffalo is an interesting option at +1000. They are a long-shot for a reason (quarterback Josh Allen is a stud), but the Bills have turned in a couple of clunkers during this NFL season, and while that is also true of most offenses in this field, New England’s best shot to beat Buffalo in this cold-weather game is to make it a defensive struggle. Add in the fact that the Cardinals-Rams and Cowboys-49ers matchups will both be played in domes, and Buffalo sticks out as the best long-shot to be the lowest-scoring team of Super Wild Card Weekend.
This article previewed four prominent NFL matchups for the coming week. For more content from The Professor, including the rest of his game previews and his fantasy content, check out The Professor on BeerLife Sports!