BETONLINE PRO PICKS BY BARRY WILNER: WILD CARD WEEK
Whether the NFL had this in mind when it created even more wild-card games, all six of this weekend’s playoff contests are rematches.
Obviously, three of those – Seattle at San Francisco, Miami at Buffalo, and Baltimore at Cincinnati – feature teams from the same division. But the Chargers and Jaguars met in Week 3, the Giants and Vikings went at it in Week 16, and the Cowboys opened the season against the Buccaneers.
Let’s look at how those previous meetings went down.
San Francisco swept Seattle, 27-7 at home in Week 2, 21-13 on a Thursday night in Week 15. By then, rookie Brock Purdy was the starting Niners quarterback and the Seahawks were dealing with a slew of injuries, particularly to their backfield.
Way back on Sept. 25, the Jaguars had their most impressive victory with a 38-10 romp at SoFi Stadium. Trevor Lawrence outplayed Justin Herbert, throwing for three touchdowns, and LA rushed for a mere 26 yards.
Miami played Buffalo tough, winning in the heat at home 21-19 in Week 3 despite being outgained 497 yards to 212. Yes, really. The Bills won 32-29 in Week 15 on a late field goal in the cold. Each team had excellent chances to win the game it lost.
Minnesota defeated the Giants on a team-record 61-yard field goal by Greg Joseph on Christmas Eve. It’s arguable that New York was the better team that day.
We’ll ignore last weekend’s Bengals victory over a Ravens lineup missing many of its key players. In their other AFC North meeting, Joe Burrow’s 1-yard TD run with 1:58 put Cincinnati ahead, then Justin Tucker (of course) made a winning 43-yard field goal as the game ended. Lamar Jackson played that day for Baltimore.
Finally, the Bucs opened “Sunday Night Football” by easily handling Dallas 19-3, outrushing the Cowboys 152-71. Dallas QB Dak Prescott injured his thumb and wound up missing five games.
So how will these rematches go down? Try this.
Seahawks at 49ers (-9 ½)
Pete Carroll and his staff deserve tons of credit for getting Seattle into the postseason with one of the weakest rosters the outstanding coach has had. And Kyle Shanahan has nurtured the Niners through QB changes and has Mr. Irrelevant playing like a cool veteran. Plus, that defense is fearsome.
BEST BET: 49ERS, 27-15
Giants at Vikings (-3)
We haven’t been sold on either of these teams for most of the season. Minnesota is vulnerable on defense to a balanced attack and big plays. The Giants must show they can run on the Vikings, which they did well in the previous matchup. And can they slow down Minnesota’s passing game led by the spectacular Justin Jefferson?
We think so.
UPSET SPECIAL: GIANTS, 23-20
Cowboys at Buccaneers (+2 ½)
We went against TB12 in the Carolina game that he and Mike Evans turned around to win the NFC South. We still think the Bucs are the inferior team to Dallas, but we just aren’t confident in the Cowboys (to cover, at least).
Ravens at Bengals (-8 ½)
We are very confident in the Bengals, who we see as the best team in the AFC. Yep, ahead of Buffalo and Kansas City. And, as seems likely, if Lamar Jackson doesn’t play or is rusty or hobbled, we have even more faith in Cincinnati.
Dolphins at Bills (-13)
Unless vintage Dan Marino shows up, can’t see Miami making this close. The quarterback situation and a spotty defense will haunt the Dolphins.
Chargers at Jaguars (+2 1/2)
Love the quarterback matchup. We don’t think either of these teams has staying power in January, but for wild-card weekend we’ll go with the better coach.
____________________________________________________________Wilner’s 2022 RECORD
Last Week – Straight up: 12-4. Against the spread: 9-7.
Season – Straight up: 168-85-2. Against the spread: 131-116-8.
Best Bet – Straight up: 13-5. Against the spread: 9-9.
Upset Special – Straight up: 8-10. Against the spread: 9-9.