I finished the season with a winning record! Alright, now time for the real show: the postseason. We have some big spreads on wild card weekend, so the question is, can the underdogs hang tough or even steal one? I’m not a fan of “Super Wild Card Weekend,” but an 18-game season and 16-team postseason feels inevitable, so let’s actually enjoy 14 teams while we can.
Last week: 4-3
Season: 35-33-3 (51.5%)
Seattle at San Francisco (-10)
Everything is coming up roses for the Niners this year. They’ve won 10 straight, all after Christian McCaffrey became a full-time starter, and haven’t missed a step even down to their third-string QB. Now the chips fall perfectly for them with both Detroit and Green Bay, actually potential landmines, out of the pictures, and facing a Seattle team they walloped twice this year. The Seahawks shouldn’t be here, and the Niners are thinking much bigger things. Pick: 49ers.
L.A. Chargers at Jacksonville (buying to +3 at -135)
Playoff success is so dependent upon good coaching, and this game is a coaching mismatch. Doug Pederson has done a phenomenal job turning the Jags around after being 3-7, while Brandon Staley may be without one of his top receivers because he foolishly played all his starters in a completely meaningless game (which the Chargers still lost anyway to a 4-12 Broncos team). Justin Herbert is all well and good, but this L.A. team is soft at its core and I like the Jags’ mojo right now. Pick: Jaguars.
Miami at Buffalo (-13.5)
Last year in this spot, the Bills annihilated the division-rival Patriots, 47-17, after two relatively close regular-season meetings. Will this be the same script against the Skylar Thompson-led Dolphins? You’d think so, but 13.5 is a really big number considering the two regular-season meetings — albeit with Tua Tagovailoa starting — were decided by a total of five points. Something tells me the Bills may have to work a little harder than expected to get this win. Pick: Dolphins.
N.Y. Giants at Minnesota (-3)
The two teams who love close games and just played one on Christmas Eve get to square off again. The Vikings managed to win 13 games while having a negative point-differential and have not played inspired football whatsoever down the stretch. The Giants get their first crack at the big stage and perhaps this is a chance for Saquon Barkley to have a breakout moment on the postseason stage. Pick: Giants.
Baltimore at Cincinnati (-8.5)
Lamar Jackson was supposed to be back. Since that hasn’t happened, the Ravens defense will be tasked with essentially winning the game by itself against one of the hottest teams in football. That’s not a recipe for success, even against a Cincinnati team that has struggled to run the ball the last four weeks. Pick: Bengals.
Dallas (-2.5) at Tampa Bay
Tom Brady is 35-12 in his postseason career. He’s 7-0 against the Cowboys. Dallas hasn’t won a road playoff game since the 1992 NFC Championship Game. History would say the Bucs are a mortal lock here. But even the longest of curses have to come to an end sooner or later, don’t they? If ever there was a spot it’s now for Dallas, coming off a second straight 12-5 season but a particularly miserable season finale against Washington. The reason I can’t bring myself to pick the Bucs is that there has literally not been a single moment this season when they have looked capable of beating a good team. And yes, that even includes their Week 1 win over Dallas in which they only found the end zone once and were aided by Dak Prescott’s thumb injury. I can’t see the Bucs’ offense, even with a rejuvenated Mike Evans, waking up and mustering enough to pull this one out. Pick: Cowboys.