NFL Wild Card Weekend History: Key Betting Trends for 2018
2018 NFL Playoffs Wildcard Weekend
The first weekend of the NFL playoffs might be called "Wildcard Weekend," but technically only half the teams involved in the games are considered "Wildcard teams." For those that don't know, the Wildcard teams are the ones that are still in the playoffs thanks to their overall record being the best two in each respective conference without winning their respective division.
With the AFC and NFC Conferences each having four divisions, that leaves two "Wildcard" teams to fill out each half of the playoff bracket every year. For 2018 specifically, we've got the #5 ranked Carolina Panthers and #6 ranked Atlanta Falcons as the Wildcard teams in the NFC, with the Tennessee Titans and Buffalo Bills coming in at #5 and #6 respectively in the AFC.
All four of these teams are currently road underdogs of at least a touchdown, as making a run all the way to the Super Bowl will be extremely tough for any one of those four franchises.
NFL Wildcard History
Part of the reason it's so tough for these Wildcard teams to go all the way is because they typically have to win three straight games on the road to just get to the Super Bowl.
Barring having both wildcard teams meeting in the Conference Final game (where the #5 seed would get home-field advantage), there is never an opportunity for any of these Wildcard teams to play a home game during their entire playoff run and that's a huge detriment to their chances of claiming a title. But at least having a chance is better than sitting on a couch at home.
Going all the way and winning the Super Bowl as a Wildcard team might be rare, but it's not unheard of. Since this Wildcard system began with the AFL-NFL merger in the 1970 season, only 10 teams have made it to the big game, with six of those squads winning the Super Bowl.
Given the near 50 playoff seasons we've had since then, you can definitely see that the odds are long. However, the four teams to do it during this century - 2000 Baltimore Ravens, 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers, 2007 NY Giants, and 2010 Green Bay Packers - have all made their runs count as they paid them off by hoisting the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the Super Bowl.
With the 2010 Green Bay Packers being the last organization to make the entire run, we might be due to see a team go the distance this season. Since 1970, we've never had a gap of years between Wildcard teams getting to the Super Bowl of longer than seven years (1985 Patriots to the 1992 Bills), and that's precisely where we stand right now.
So who would be your top choice to make it all the way to the big game in Minnesota for the Super Bowl 52 this year? Carolina, Atlanta, Tennessee or Buffalo?
2018 NFL Future Odds
*All odds taken from Sports Interaction.
One method to help with that choice is to take a peek at the odds for each of those four teams to win their respective Conference Championship and simply get to the Super Bowl. Once at the Super Bowl these Wildcard teams will almost assuredly be priced as underdogs so in terms of winning the title you can at least delay that decision somewhat.
Conference Championship odds are a nice starting point and for 2018 it's the NFC teams that appear to be the better options from a betting standpoint to make that run.
Atlanta (+800) and Carolina (+1000) are the biggest underdogs to win the NFC and deservedly so as the Wildcard teams, but there numbers aren't priced that far behind the rest of the pack.
In front of the Falcons sin the #1 seed Philadelphia Eagles (+475) - without their starting QB - and then the Saints (+380), Rams (+380) and Minnesota Vikings (+180). Those numbers when looked at as a whole aren't that spread out at all.
Comparatively, over in the AFC you've got the #1 seed New England Patriots leading the way (-143), followed by Pittsburgh (+260), Jacksonville (+700), Kansas City (+800), and then Tennessee and Buffalo sharing (+4000) odds respectively.
That's a much bigger gap for the two Wildcard teams as oddsmakers don't believe the Bills or Titans have any shot at being the ones to make that run. So if you are considering a futures wager on any of the 2018 Wildcard teams, it's probably best to stick to Carolina or Atlanta. If forced to pick one of them right now, I'd have to go with Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers at +1000 to win the NFC.
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