Wild Card Weekend Predictions & Best Bets: Will Foles Fairy Tale Continue?

  • Three of four games on Wild Card Weekend have spreads under 3.0. 
  • Home teams have a spotty track record in recent history.
  • Based on the advanced analytics, which teams are offering value for bettors?

The matchups for Wild Card Weekend are set. An AFC South battle between the Colts and Texans starts the action on Saturday afternoon, followed by Seahawks vs Cowboys in the evening window.

On Sunday, the Chargers got a bad draw, travelling east to visit the Ravens in the 1:00 PM ET (10:00 AM PT) time-slot, while Nick Foles and the storybook Eagles meet the Bears in the afternoon to round out the quartet.

The home teams are all favored, though three spreads are less than a field goal. Since the 2014 playoffs, home teams are only 10-10 straight-up on Wild Card Weekend. We expect that trend of mediocrity to continue.

Indianapolis Colts vs Houston Texans

Time & Date: 4:35 PM ET, Saturday, Jan. 5th

Team Spread Moneyline Over/Under
Colts +2.0 (-115) +105 O 49.0 (-110)
Texans -2.0 (-105) -125 U 49.0 (-110)

The Colts are the better team by most metrics. They also beat the Texans in Houston in Week 14, won eight of their final nine games (including three of four on the road), and

If you look at Weighted DVOA, which weighs recent games more heavily, the discrepancy between the teams is even greater. Indianapolis ranks 4th in the entire league (22.1%), while Houston is down in 13th (7.9%).

Colts vs Texans: H2H Comparison

Colts Statistic Texans
12.6% (8th) DVOA Rating (Rank) 7.9% (11th)
1.44 (11th) Massey-Peabody Rating (Rank) 1.14 (13th)
92.1 (7th) PFF Rating (Rank) 92.4 (6th)

The last three times division rivals have met in the Wild Card round, the road team has either covered or won outright. That includes:

  • 2018: Carolina (+6.5) covered in a 31-26 loss in New Orleans.
  • 2016: Pittsburgh (-3.0) won 18-16 in Cincinnati.
  • 2015: Baltimore (+3.0) won 30-17 in Pittsburgh.

There’s something to be said for familiarity. This road environment won’t be all that foreign to the Colts.

Score Prediction: 27-24 Colts

Best Bet: Colts +2.0 (-115)

Seattle Seahawks vs Dallas Cowboys

Time & Date: 8:15 PM ET, Saturday, Jan. 5th

Team Spread Moneyline Over/Under
Seahawks +1.0 (-110) EVEN O 43.0 (-110)
Cowboys -1.0 (-110) -120 U 43.0 (-110)

This game has a lot of similarities to the Colts vs Texans matchup. Seattle and Dallas already played this year, with Seattle (the road team this time around) winning during the regular season, 24-13 (albeit at home) .

Also, the road team (Seattle) has the better advanced numbers, this time across the board.

But unlike Colts vs Texans, that discrepancy narrows when you look at weighted DVOA (which, again, weighs recent games more heavily), where the Seahawks are 14th (6.1%) and the Cowboys are 19th (-2.5%).

Seahawks vs Cowboys: H2H Comparison

Seahawks Statistic Cowboys
6.7% (12th) DVOA Rating (Rank) -5.2% (21st)
3.77 (9th) Massey-Peabody Rating (Rank) 0.76 (15th)
87.0 (14th) PFF Rating (Rank) 86.9 (15th)

The 2018 Seahawks have earned their reputation as a run-first team, averaging the second-most attempts per game (33.4), and Dallas has a stout run defense (3.8 YPC allowed, 5th in the NFL). At first blush, advantage Dallas.

Seattle’s offense is more balanced than most realize. It’s 6th in Rushing DVOA and 7th in Passing DVOA. Russell Wilson is still elite, he just hasn’t been called on as much this year.

The Cowboys’ ground game has decent traditional stats (4.5 YPC, 122.7 YPG), but is only 19th in Rushing DVOA. That said, it shredded this Seattle team when they met earlier this year (166 yards on 19 carries, 8.7 YPC). The only reason Dallas was limited to 13 points was because it lost the turnover battle 3-0 (2 INTS, 1 FUM). Dak Prescott has only thrown 3 INTs at home this year.

Getting Dallas – a team that went 7-1 in its own barn — at -1.0 is good value.

Score Prediction: 26-23 Cowboys

Best Bet: Cowboys -1.0 (-110)

Los Angeles Chargers vs Baltimore Ravens

Time & Date: 1:05 PM ET, Sunday, Jan. 6th

Team Spread Moneyline Over/Under
Chargers +2.5 (-110) +110 O 41.5 (-110)
Ravens -2.5 (-110) -130 U 41.5 (-110)

Another regular-season rematch sees the Chargers looking to avenge a 22-10 home loss from Week 16. The Ravens’ defense completely shut-down Philip Rivers and company in that one, holding them to 198 yards of total offense and forcing three turnovers, including a fumble returned for six.

The Chargers averaged just 3.2 yards per carry and 3.6 yards per pass.

On offense, Baltimore piled up 159 rushing yards at 4.5 YPC and Lamar Jackson had his first career 200-yard passing game.

Chargers vs Ravens: H2H Comparison

Chargers Statistic Ravens
22.7% (3rd) DVOA Rating (Rank) 17.0% (6th)
5.05 (6th) Massey-Peabody Rating (Rank) 3.06 (10th)
91.9 (8th) PFF Rating (Rank) 84.9 (17th)

The 12-point margin in the first game is kind of misleading. Down 16-10, the Chargers were on the Baltimore side of the field in the 4th quarter when this happened:

If LA – which was +1 in turnover margin this year – doesn’t finish the game -2 in the turnover department, they likely come away with a W. They should be more secure with the football in the rematch, and the defense should be more prepared for the option-style run game the Ravens are employing these days.

Despite the spotty track record of West-Coast teams travelling east to play in the early time-slot, the Chargers are the play.

Score Prediction: 20-17 Chargers

Best Bet: Chargers +2.5 (-110)

Philadelphia Eagles vs Chicago Bears

Time & Date: 4:40 PM ET, Sunday, Jan. 6th

Team Spread Moneyline Over/Under
Eagles +6.0 (-115) +200 O 41.0 (-105)
Bears -6.0 (-105) -240 U 41.0 (-115)

Eagles vs Bears is the only Wild Card game that’s not a regular-season rematch. It’s also the only game with a spread that’s more than 2.5 points.

The statistical comparison says it should be a Chicago rout. The narrative says that Nick Foles – even a banged-up Nick Foles – is unbeatable in big games.

Eagles vs Bears: H2H Comparison

Eagles Statistic Bears
0.0% (15th) DVOA Rating (Rank) 19.0% (5th)
1.28 (12th) Massey-Peabody Rating (Rank) 6.22 (3rd)
91.5 (9th) PFF Rating (Rank) 92.6 (5th)

In three must-win games from Week 15 to 17, Foles was 87-113 (77%) for 962 yards with 6 TDs and 3 INTs. But he has not faced a defense like Chicago, because there is not defense like Chicago.

The Bears’ D ranks 1st in Defensive DVOA, and the gap between 1st and 2nd (Buffalo) is the same as the gap between 2nd and 10th. They are 1st against the pass and 2nd against the run, and only surrender 17.5 points against at home.

The only time Chicago lost at Soldier Field this year (38-31 vs New England), they gave up two special-teams touchdowns and actually outgained New England by 72 yards. If this team doesn’t commit mental mistakes, they are going to bring the Nick Foles fairy tale to an abrupt halt.

Score Prediction: 24-13 Bears

Best Bet: Bears -6.0 (-105)

AlexanderP

Alexander is the MTS editor-in-chief. Frank, Alex, and Geoff brought him in when they realized that their betting expertise far surpassed their grammatical abilities. He loves overanalyzing college basketball trends. Talking to him during the first weekend of March Madness is like talking to a wall. A very focused wall, but a wall nonetheless.