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The NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball trumpet parity in their leagues, but the NFL lives it. Since the NFL expanded the playoff field to its current 12-team format in 1990, at least four new teams have made the postseason each year the season after missing it.
This season, the NFL has tied a record over that span with eight new playoff teams from 2016. That number was reached only back in 2003. The return teams from last year are New England, which repeated as AFC East champion, back-to-back AFC North winner Pittsburgh, repeat AFC West champ Kansas City and NFC wild card team Atlanta.
Wild Card Weekend features the No. 3 seed facing the No. 6 in each conference and the No. 4 against the No. 5. Six of the eight new playoff participants will be in action. It all begins Saturday afternoon from Kansas City with the Chiefs as 9-point home favorites at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com over the Tennessee Titans, who are in the postseason for the first time since 2008.
The Chiefs, meanwhile, are looking for their first home playoff win since January 8, 1994. They lost a close home game to the Titans late in the 2016 season on a last-second field goal. The road team has covered seven of the past eight in the series.
On Saturday night, NFC No. 6 seed Atlanta visits the No. 3 and NFC West champion Los Angeles Rams, who are in the postseason for the first time since 2004 while in St. Louis. The Rams are 6.5-point favorites in a matchup of the NFL’s past two league-leading offenses. Los Angeles led this year at 29.9 points per game and Atlanta did in 2016 at 33.8 points per game on the way to blowing Super Bowl LI against New England.
Sunday kicks off with two playoff newcomers: Buffalo at AFC South champion Jacksonville, which is a 9-point favorite. The Bills ended the longest playoff drought in the four major American sports leagues, last reaching in 1999. They needed a miracle from the Cincinnati Bengals in Baltimore in Week 17 to get the AFC’s final wild card spot. The Jaguars hadn’t finished with a winning record since 2007, which was their last trip to the postseason. The road team has covered five of the past seven meetings between those teams.
Finally, on Sunday afternoon it’s the third meeting of the season between the Carolina Panthers and NFC South champion New Orleans Saints, who are 7-point home favorites. The Saints won in Charlotte 34-13 in Week 3 and beat the visiting Panthers 31-21 in Week 13. Rare in the NFL for one team to beat another three times – they of course would have to be division foes. The underdog has covered six of the past seven between these two.
For more info, picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the new OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes, or check it out at OddsShark.libsyn.com.