NFL

NFL Play-Offs: Team-by-team verdicts in race for the Super Bowl

NFL play-offs betting preview and team profiles
NFL play-offs betting preview and team profiles

Paul Higham delivers his verdict on the 14 teams left in contention for the Super Bowl, and picks out a few play-off specials to consider...

  • Pick Prescott to top touchdown charts

  • Rams @ Lions to be top scoring wildcard game

  • Team guides, rankings and Super Bowl Specials tips


The play-offs have been set and 14 teams remain in the hunt for the Super Bowl, but who has the best chance and why? And what value can we find in betting on our play-off protagonists?

This weekend 12 of the 14 hopefuls will battle it out in the Super Wildcard Round fixtures, while the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers sit back and relax enjoying their first-round bye.

The top seeds also enjoy home advantage throughout, which could be crucial, so it's no surprise that a Ravens v 49ers Super Bowl match-up is the 11/43.75 favourite.

But there are some hot teams heading into the post-season and there's always a shock or two along the way. So let's look at how the teams shape up.


AFC play-off teams

1. Baltimore Ravens (13-4)

First round bye

Baltimore Ravens logo.jpg

The consensus best team in the league with MVP favourite Lamar Jackson will take some stopping with the extra week's rest and home advantage.

Jackson's also the 7/24.50 Super Bowl MVP favourite and although they're a great all around team, they'll go as far as he can take them with his arm and his legs.

He and the Ravens have something to prove in the play-offs though, he's 1-3 throwing just three TDs and five interceptions.

Verdict: Put simply, their body of work over the season makes them the clear team to beat in the AFC.


2. Buffalo Bills (11-6)

Super Bowl Odds: 6/17.00 | First game: Steelers (H)

Buffalo Bills.jpg

A bad start but strong finish for Buffalo won them the second seed and two home games - with the first being against a Pittsburgh side that's 1-10 without TJ Watt.

Five straight wins, four straight AFC East titles and five consecutive play-off campaigns means they've got plenty of experience, and crucially their defence has stepped up down the stretch.

Josh Allen plays as the team does - he's a stud that can be unplayable, but he's also had a career-high 18 interceptions and mistakes have blighted their campaign.

Verdict: As good as Baltimore on their day, with a clean game they can blow anyone away. A serious challenger if they can limit mistakes.


3. Kansas City Chiefs

Super Bowl Odds: 10/111.00 | First game: Dolphins (H)

It's the first time Patrick Mahomes has not been first or second seed in his career but of more concern is the fact he can't find enough receivers who can catch a ball.

KC lead the league in drops and they also give away too many penalties and turnovers - and that's ruining what is a superb defence that gave up just over 17 points a game.

Verdict: That defence will keep them in every game they play, but unless they start catching the ball they'll come up short.


4. Houston Texans (10-7)

Super Bowl Odds: 66/167.00 | First Game: Browns (H)

The first team to win their division with a rookie head coach and QB, Houston have a free hit and that youthful exuberance makes them dangerous.

CJ Stroud looks like he'll take it all in his stride but overall they look a little behind the big boys.

Verdict: A play-off spot this year is a bonus - they're big outsiders for a reason.


5. Cleveland Browns (11-6)

Super Bowl Odds: 25/126.00 | First Game: Texans (A)

Did you know Joe Flacco has a perfect 5-0 record in wildcard games? It's been nine years since his last play-off game though and he's already played his part in Cleveland's league-high 37 turnovers.

Coach Kevin Stefanski has done wonders to get here with their QB problems, and the Browns defence is serious and will be a problem for any team - in the play-offs that really counts.

Verdict: They fit the bill of genuine dark horses, and wouldn't be surprised to see them reach the AFC Championship game @ 4/15.00.


6. Miami Dolphins (11-6)

Super Bowl Odds: 16/117.00 | First Game: Chiefs (A)

Miami Dolphins.jpg

Miami haven't won a play-off game since 2000 and limped a bit into the post-season dropping bad losses to the Ravens and Bills.

That cost them a division title and now injuries on defence especially seem to limit how far they can go, especially going on the road.

Verdict: Explosive offence is always a threat, but defensive injuries means we shouldn't expect too much.


7. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-7)

Super Bowl Odds: 100/1101.00 | First Game: Bills (A)

Pittsburgh getting 10 wins with such lacklustre offensive displays for most of the season was a minor miracle - but winning a play-off game without TJ Watt will be an even bigger one.

QB Mason Rudolph helped the team score 30-plus points in consecutive games for the first time in three years, but they'll struggle now it gets serious.

Verdict: Tough to see anything but an early exit, and worth backing them as lowest scorers in the wildcards at 13/82.63.


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NFC wildcard teams

1. San Francisco 49ers (12-5)

Super Bowl Odds: 2/13.00 | First round bye

Thumbnail image for San Francisco 49ers logo.jpg

The Super Bowl favourites despite taking a beating from Baltimore at Christmas, who they should meet in Vegas going on form.

Well balanced with devastating playmakers including Christian McCaffrey who was probably the MVP but won't win it.

Verdict: Probably played the best of any team this season during a six-win stretch and nobody in NFC has looked anywhere near them.


2. Dallas Cowboys (12-5)

Super Bowl Odds: 15/28.50 | First Game: Packers (H)

Thumbnail image for Dak Prescott Cowboys.jpg

Dak Prescott led the league in TD throws after his be8st season and CeeDee Lamb looked unstoppable, but this is the Cowboys - the most untrustworthy of play-off teams.

They're unbeaten at home this season and again look to have the total package - but head coach Mike McCarthy could well be the weak link coming down the stretch.

Verdict: Back Dak Prescott for most play-off TD throws @ 2/13.00 as they could easily win a couple of home games, but I just can't see them beating San Francisco to go all the way.


3. Detroit Lions (12-5)

Super Bowl Odds: 20/121.00 | First Game: Rams (H)

Detroit will host their first play-off game since 1993 seeking a first win since 1991, so Ford Field will be LOUD come wildcard weekend.

Jared Goff's been to a Super Bowl and Dan Campbell is a hell of a coach - and with Amon-Ram St Brown, David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs they've got explosive playmakers to make the difference.

Verdict: They can hang with anyone if they limit their turnovers, but they're just a tier below San Fran & Dallas.


4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-8)

Super Bowl Odds 80/181.00 | First Game: Eagles (H)

A fourth straight play-offs for the inconsistent Bucs thanks to a pretty poor NFC South. Baker Mayfield has shone in patches, notably in Green Bay, but the offence has struggled with drops, penalties and mistakes.

Safety Antoine Winfield has been absolutely incredible, but again the defence as a whole has been on-and-off, so it really is a case of which Bucs turn up.

Verdict: Too inconsistent to trust, could they beat the Eagles? Yep, absolutely, do they have the talent and consistency to go much further? Nope.


5. Philadelphia Eagles (11-6)

Super Bowl Odds: 16/117.00 | First Game: Bucs (A)

Philadelphia Eagles NFL.jpg

A superb start and miserable finish for the Eagles as it got bad, really bad, in that 1-5 run to limp into the play-offs.

The talent is still there, especially on offence, but Jalen Hurts' finger is a worry - while AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith are also struggling.

It's the defence that will stop them getting back tot he Super Bowl though.

Verdict: They just look an unhappy, disjointed team and it's hard to see them going far - their offence could spark at any time but that defence won't stand up against the big boys.


6. Los Angeles Rams (10-7)

Super Bowl Odds: 40/141.00 | First Game: Lions (A)

The Rams have been rolling at just the right time. Puka Nacua broke the rookie receiving record that's stood since 1960 with Matthew Stafford supplying the ammunition.

They've put up points against top defences too, such as the Browns, Ravens and 49ers so if a game gets into a shoot-out, they've got the guns to go toe-to-toe with anyone.

It's Detroit first up so this game is worth backing at the highest scoring wildcard game at 2/13.00.

They're the worst team in the league on special teams though and missed a league-high 16 extra points and field goals. How many times have we seen a play-off game decided that way?

Verdict: Serious dark horses, but special teams could cost them.


7. Green Bay Packers (9-8)

Super Bowl Odds: 80/181.00 | First Game: Cowboys (A)

The youngest team ever to make the play-offs, Jordan Love won a final-game decider to get them here and really does look like the real deal.

They've a batch of speedy young receivers and veteran rusher Aaron Jones provides the experienced x-factor on the ground. It's the defence that's a worry though.

Verdict: They could give us a shock first up, but this is a learning year for Green Bay.


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