NFL 2024 Super Wild Card Round Weekend Recap: Three Betting Lessons We Learned

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Matt LaFleur Green Bay Packers Head Coach
Head coach Matt LaFleur of the Green Bay Packers reacts during the first quarter against the Minnesota Vikings. David Berding/Getty Images/AFP

The Wild Card round is completed. Favorites were 3-3 SU and just 2-4 ATS and Dallas was the only home team to lose outright. What can we take away from the opening round of the NFL Playoffs?

Consider these points before you place your bets on the Divisional Round games at top sportsbooks.

1. Coaching Matters in the Postseason

When you break down all six Wild Card contests, one aspect stood out above all others from this handicapper’s perspective, coaching.

  • Cleveland was not as prepared as Houston.
  • Kansas City has identified who they are, while Miami was much less certain and hesitant, especially on offense.
  • Green Bay players saw the weak spots of Dallas and had an exceptional game plan on both sides of the ball and destroyed Dallas. The Cowboys seemed confused and not focused.
  • The Rams and Lions was a close game because both teams were completely prepared by their coaches and Detroit executed better by scoring touchdowns compared to field goals by L.A.
  • Buffalo jumped on Pittsburgh and only a blocked field goal brought life to the Steelers, who could not match the Bills intensity early.
  • Philadelphia was lost coming into their matchup with Tampa Bay and played without purpose in a postseason contest.

Houston’s DeMeco Ryans didn’t care that Cleveland’s defense was top-rated, he saw on film the Browns’ defense was not nearly as strong on the road and attacked them by throwing and followed that up by running the pigskin. Ryans also wanted his coverage guys to play tight on the Browns receivers because Cleveland averaged better than two turnovers a game for the season and they coughed it up again.

I still believe Mike McDaniel is a good head coach as he had bad luck with all the late-season injuries. Nevertheless, the Dolphins are a down-the-field pass offense, which makes the running game work more effectively, but he tried to run the ball in the cold conditions with a make-shift offensive line against a stout Kansas City defensive front. Bad idea.

LaFleur vs. McCarthy

Everyone knew Dallas could be run on and they played man-to-man defense. After Green Bay went right down the field on the opening drive for a TD, the Cowboys made few visible adjustments to contain the Packers’ Aaron Jones. For reasons unknown, Dallas played zone against a young and potentially talented receiving group and Jordan Love picked it apart. Matt LaFleur out-coached Mike McCarthy in all facets.

Buffalo had the right approach to attack Pittsburgh and place them on the defensive. It worked. Only what seems to be a typical Bills lull brought the Steelers back into the game.

Sirianni’s Struggles

Philadelphia was beaten before they left for Tampa Bay. After being the unquestioned leader of the Eagles for two seasons, Nick Sirianni appeared to believe he was a great coach. He hired great coordinators to start, but when they left, he did not come close to replacing them effectively. Underlying issues emerged and the veteran players seemed disengaged and by some accounts, Sirianni lost the locker room. The Bucs’ Todd Bowles saw the signs on tape and had the correct game plan to exploit all of Philly’s problems.

2. Execution and Tackling Win Postseason Games

A head coach and his staff can assemble outstanding game plans, but if they are not executed properly, it can all be for naught.

That is where the attention to detail comes into play. You need all 11 players to work in harmony to carry out their individual and collective assignments on offense and defense. Once the players understand and have proof the game plan will work, their willingness to follow through and confidence will rise and they’ll have a new heightened sense to perform well.

On defense, mistakes or assignment breakdowns will happen. One controllable aspect that can contain damage is tackling and not letting errors, physical or mental, lead to big plays. We saw this in all six matchups and it helped every winning team.

3. Study Box Scores and Look for Divisional Round Angles That Have Meaning

Each football bettor has come away with their thoughts about the Wild Card contests. Smart bettors go back and research how each team advanced. Did they dominate or catch a few fortunate breaks? Did the offense and defense match season norms or did they overachieve dramatically which could lead to a degree of regression? These are elements you have to know.

Finally, X (formerly Twitter) is a great resource for betting information that can give you insights about how teams perform as double-digit favorites, if the betting public is too heavy on one side of a side or total or how do #1 seeds do with rest. The more info you have, the better prepared you will be to win this week.

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