Two NFC teams riding identical four-game winning streaks will likely enter wild-card weekend favored by more than a field goal at home, while the AFC has three teams from the same division battling to make it to the next round.
The NFC East champion Dallas Cowboys (12-4) open as seven-point favorites against the NFC North’s Detroit Lions (11-5) for Sunday's wild-card game at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. For Saturday the NFC South champion Carolina Panthers (7-8-1) opened as 5.5-point chalk against the NFC West’s Arizona Cardinals (11-5). Early betting has seen the lines drop slightly in favor of the road teams.
The Cowboys wrapped up the regular season by routing Washington 44-17 as 6.5-point road favorites at the sportsbooks. They got 100 rushing yards and one touchdown from running back DeMarco Murray while wide receiver Dez Bryant added 99 yards on four catches, including two touchdowns. Murray finished up as the NFL’s rushing champion with a franchise-record 1,845 yards, and Bryant broke Terrell Owens' team record with 16 touchdown receptions.
The Lions finished second in the NFC North following a 30-20 loss to the Green Bay Packers last week as eight-point road underdogs. They had won four in a row prior to that setback but have now failed to cover the spread in three straight heading into the playoffs.
The Panthers routed the Atlanta Falcons 34-3 to win the division for the second year in a row despite being 2.5-point road underdogs in the closing NFL online betting lines. Carolina quarterback Cam Newton threw for one touchdown and ran for another, while the team’s defense also returned two interceptions for scores. The Panthers had gone 0-6-1 in their previous seven games before the winning streak, and they will face an Arizona team that dropped four of six games down the stretch.
The Cardinals lost to the San Francisco 49ers 20-17 last week, but still managed to beat the spread as six-point road underdogs, covering for the third time in their past four games. They were 11-5 vs. the line during the regular season overall, the best mark of any team in the league.
This weekend’s AFC Wild Card betting matchups could be impacted by injuries to key players in both games that kept them off the betting board Sunday night. The AFC North champion Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5) host the Baltimore Ravens (10-6) on Saturday, and they are waiting to find out the severity of a knee injury to star running back Le’Veon Bell. The division rivals split two regular-season meetings, with the home team winning by 20 points and easily covering the spread.
The Cincinnati Bengals lost to the Steelers 27-17 for the AFC North crown last week as 3-point road underdogs and saw wide receiver A.J. Green suffer a concussion at the end of the game. Green’s status remains in doubt for Sunday’s road game against the AFC South champion Indianapolis Colts (11-5), who blanked the Bengals 27-0 as 3-point home favorites in Week 7.