Who Is Favored in NFL Wild Card Games?

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By Eric Wilson

With the NFL playoffs right around the corner, fans are eagerly awaiting the wild card weekend. This is the time when teams that have barely made it to the post-season compete for a chance to advance further.

But who is favored in these high-stakes games? Let’s take a closer look.

Understanding Wild Card Games

First, it’s important to understand how wild card games work. In each conference, six teams make it to the playoffs.

The top two teams from each division qualify, along with two “wild card” teams with the best records. The wild card teams play against each other in a single-elimination game, with the winner advancing to face one of the divisional champions.

The Importance of Home Field Advantage

One factor that can give a team an edge in a wild card game is home field advantage. This means that they get to play on their own turf and in front of their own fans. In general, this can give them a boost in terms of energy and momentum.

For example:

  • In 2019, all four home teams won their wild card games.
  • Over the past decade, home teams have won about 65% of all playoff games.

However, it’s worth noting that this advantage may not hold true for all teams. Some stadiums are known for having less enthusiastic crowds or difficult playing conditions (such as extreme cold or wind). Additionally, some visiting teams may be better equipped to handle hostile crowds and unfamiliar environments.

Team Records and Matchups

Another important factor in predicting wild card game outcomes is team records and matchups. Generally speaking, teams with better records are more likely to win their games. Additionally, certain matchups may favor one team over another based on factors such as offensive/defensive strategies, injuries, and individual player matchups.

For example:

  • In the 2019 wild card round, the Seattle Seahawks (11-5) were favored over the Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) due to their superior record and strong defensive play.
  • Conversely, in the same round, the Tennessee Titans (9-7) upset the New England Patriots (12-4) thanks in part to their dominant running game and a solid defensive effort.

The Role of Momentum

Finally, it’s worth noting that momentum can play a significant role in wild card games. Teams that are coming off of a strong regular season finish or have recently won important games may have more confidence and energy heading into their playoff matchup.

For example:

  • The 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars won their wild card game against the Buffalo Bills thanks in part to a six-game winning streak leading up to the playoffs.
  • In contrast, the 2018 Chicago Bears lost their wild card game against the Philadelphia Eagles despite having a better record. This was due largely to an unfortunate missed field goal at the end of regulation and a lack of momentum heading into overtime.


So who is favored in NFL wild card games? Ultimately, it depends on a variety of factors including home field advantage, team records and matchups, and momentum.

While these factors can provide some insight into which teams may come out on top, upsets can always happen in the unpredictable world of football playoffs. Regardless of who wins or loses, fans can always count on exciting and high-stakes games during this thrilling time of year.