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NFL Super Wild Card: NFC predictions


NFL Super Wild Card: NFC predictions

The 2022 regular season has been wrapped up and seven teams from each conference now face the drama of knockout football.

Win and you’re still in, lose and you go home.

Read on to inform your Super Wild Card predictions with insights from Mark Taylor before checking out the exceptional NFL odds at Pinnacle.

NFC Super Wild Card preview

The two respective top seeds will sit out the Super Wild Card weekend, with the Kansas City Chiefs topping the Super Bowl betting with an implied winning probability of around 25%.

The NFC’s top-seeded Philadelphia Eagles have around a 19% chance of winning outright and sandwiched in between are the Buffalo Bills with a 20% chance.

The implication is that Buffalo remain the top team in the NFL, but the benefits of a bye for the two number one seeds has skewed the overall Super Bowl market.

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New York Giants (9-7-1) at Minnesota Vikings (13-4)

The two most talked about sides of the season clash when the Vikings host the Giants. Neither side have impeccable metrics, but for large chunks of the season both have managed to defy expectations and have kept on winning.

Minnesota have performed the most astonishing sleight of hand, winning 11 one-score games, while scoring 424 points, but allowing three more at 427.

They’ve a sub-0.5 Pythagorean wins team, giving them four and a half more actual wins than the usual expectation.

Amongst the 14 postseason teams, their passing game is ranked 10th, only two teams have a less efficient running game, and they have the least-efficient pass defence.

But they do have Kirk Cousins throwing to Justin Jefferson. The latter has played all 17 games and he’s been on the field for 96% of the Vikings’ designated passing plays, proving to be a lethal target (he’s caught 70% of balls thrown his way), generating 1,809 yards at 14.1 yards per reception and 80 first downs.

Sometimes a team game can be superseded by an irresistible player combination.

Read: Ben Brown analyses NFC Championship

The Giants haven’t been quite as perplexing as their hosts. Their record of 7-2 immediately following their bye week, with all their wins coming in one-score games, they’ve since gone 2-5-1 as they’ve been pulled inexorably back to reality.

Three of these losses have been in one-score contests, with one defeat coming against Minnesota (by a field goal).

They share a small negative points differential with Minnesota and 8.5 Pythagorean wins aren’t too far removed from their 9.5 actual winning record. The Giants have a 50/50 split between passes and runs, their efficiency is excellent for the latter, but they are well below-average aerially.

Running back Saquon Barkley’s exploits are firmly tied to New York’s success or failure. He’s had eight 100+ dual yard games, scored in 10 of his 16 games, and burst clear for at least a 20-yard gain in half of his regular season matches.

The Giants have generally found postseason teams a step too far in 2022, with a record of 1-6 against them, and they lost to the Philadelphia Eagles and the Seattle Seahawks by wide margins, whereas Minnesota have a record of 3-2 against postseason team.

A narrow 24-21 home win is the call here.

Bet: New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings odds

Dallas Cowboys (12-5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-9)

The NFC South hasn’t been a hive of talent in 2022 and Tampa flopped over the winning line in the NFC with a losing record.

It came courtesy of Tom Brady just pulling out enough big plays to rescue their season in Week 17’s come-from-behind win over the Carolina Panthers.

Age-related decline can be rapid and despite defying gravity year upon year, Brady finally appears to have hit the wall. He may return to the NFL in 2023, but it won’t be in Tampa, as there are numerous potential players to fill the huge hole at the game’s most influential position.

Brady has thrown half a yard per attempt below the average concession rate of the defences he’s faced, the team’s running game is rock-bottom of all the postseason teams, and they’ve averaged just 18.5 points against 21.4-per-game defences.

A league-high 66% pass/run ratio owes more to desperation than to design.

Six of their eight wins have been in matches decided by one score, they’ve conceded 45 more points than they’ve scored, and are a legitimate losing 7-win Pythagorean team. 18 teams have a win/loss record as good or better than the Buccaneers in 2022.

Defensively, they’ve done well against the pass and generally they prevent the opposition from putting games out of reach for their misfiring offence. The exception was in games against Kansas City, San Francisco, and Cincinnati, when Tampa’s defence allowed at least 34 points.

Viewed over the whole season, Dallas can claim to share status with these three elite teams who overpowered Tampa. They’ve 11.5 Pythagorean wins, a positive points differential of 125, and fewer than half of their wins have come in one-score games.

However, Dallas were allowing just 17 points per game prior to their bye week, but that’s since risen to over 23. They’ve benefitted from a turnover differential of +10, but Dak Prescott has tossed at least one pick in each of his last seven games and that’s eating into that advantage.

Tampa aren’t a playoff-quality side, but Dallas are declining and are being fueled partly by s turnovers. Take a 21-20 win for the visiting Cowboys.

Bet: Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers odds

Seattle Seahawks (9-8) at San Francisco 49’ers (13-4)

Another divisional matchup, as the NFC West teams lock horns for a place in the Divisional round of the postseason.

San Francisco’s story inevitable revolves around Brock Purdy, aka “Mr Irrelevent” (the final selection in the draft), but his role on the defence is the star turn.

Purdy has been used sparingly since multiple injuries elevated him to the starting role in Week 13.

The 49ers run slightly more often than they pass with Purdy under centre, but he’s hitting his targets on 67% of his throws, for eight yards per attempt, has thrown at least two touchdowns in every game since he took the reins and most impressively, he has a 6-0 record.

He’s averaging 34 points for the offence, which is more than enough for the most miserly defence in the postseason to defend. Teams who score an average of 21 points per game have been restricted to just 16 against San Francisco and the 49ers have kept teams to 10 points or fewer on five occasions.

Their point differential is worthy of their 13 actual wins.

In an NFL season where narrow wins have been prevalent, San Francisco have regularly blown the opposition away with comfortable victories, albeit fueled by the best turnover difference of the postseason sides.

Seattle were supposed to be spinning their wheels, waiting for the draft picks windfall from the Russell Wilson trade to Denver. But instead, Geno Smith confounded his previous journeyman career by breaking franchise records and taking the Seahawks to the playoffs.

They pass on 57% of downs, have well above-average efficiency both on the ground and through the air, and even in this elite company of postseason sides they rank a respectable seventh.

Seattle languish defensively, especially on the ground and only Minnesota concede opponent-adjusted points at a higher rate than Seattle.

They’ve already lost twice to the 49ers by a combined 48-20 and with the 49ers defence making it difficult for Seattle to muster a balanced attack, take the home side to comfortably progress by winning 28-17.

Bet: Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49'ers odds

 


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