In its quest to dominate as many time slots as possible, the NFL has expanded the Wild Card Weekend to include Monday this year. It makes for quite a weekend of postseason football viewing.
All odds are from Bet Online as of Friday 10 a.m.
- Las Vegas Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals (-5.5): Give credit to the Raiders for getting over their midseason hiccup and overcoming a ridiculous amount of adversity to make the postseason. Their pass rush, led by Maxx Crosby, can disrupt Joe Burrow and the Bengals offense. So to the folks insisting Las Vegas doesn’t have a chance, be careful in overlooking a resilient squad that found ways to win its last four games against the odds.
The Bengals are the better team. They proved it in the Week 11 matchup in Las Vegas, triumphing 32-13. Rested after taking a week off in the loss to Cleveland, the poised Bengals are ready to snap the NFL’s longest playoff victory drought. Unless Burrow chokes on the moment or the Raiders go off for over 400 yards passing, they'll get it.
Bengals 30, Raiders 21
- New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills (-4): The third meeting is a charm, but which team is living the charmed life and which is only the semi-charmed kind of life?
I really like the back end of the Bills defense to confuse Mac Jones and limit what the Patriots' passing attack can do. New England’s own secondary can be problematic for Josh Allen and the Bills, but Allen’s ability to create with his legs is a problem. Jones had an impressive rookie year, but he doesn’t have that club in the bag.
Bills 24, Patriots 20
- Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-8.5): The Eagles have a clear path to victory in Tampa Bay. Really. It’s not going to be easy and requires strict dedication to staying on the path.
Run the ball. Over and over again.
The Eagles run the ball well. The Buccaneers are vulnerable to the run, more vulnerable than they are against the passing offense. Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia run game can make things happen, but they have to stick with it, even if it’s not working all that well early on. Aside from being able to move the ball, it’s the only real chance they’ve got of slowing down Tom Brady and the Bucs' potent offense.
It could happen. It almost certainly won’t, but it could. If Darius Slay can pick off Brady and Javon Hargrave can create a fumble or two, the Eagles can do it.
Buccaneers 26, Eagles 17
- San Francisco 49ers at Dallas Cowboys (-3): In two of their last three games, the Cowboys topped 50 points in wins. As good as I think the 49ers are, they just can’t match the Dallas offense. I don’t see the 49ers defense, as good as it is, overcoming the high-powered Cowboys offense and Dak Prescott playing so well. I do respect the ability to the 49ers to create with their run offense and how well George Kittle can attack the hit-and-miss Cowboys defense. In Dallas with the home team’s ability to create offense from its defense, it’s tough to forecast a road win for the up-and-down Jimmy Garoppolo experience.
Cowboys 26, 49ers 21
- Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas Chiefs (-12.5): The Ben Roethlisberger era comes to a resounding end in Kansas City. This is the only game where I don’t really see a way the road team can prevail, barring T.J. Watt clobbering Patrick Mahomes and also the Chiefs' starting defense suffering a bout of food poisoning from undercooked bacon.
Chiefs 33, Steelers 12
- Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams (-4): All eyes are on Matthew Stafford in the first playoff game of his career. It’s also the first time where his team is favored. Stafford, fair or not, has the rep of not being able to win the big games during his 12 seasons in Detroit, and he didn’t play great down the stretch for Los Angeles, adding pressure to the cooker.
I do think Stafford breaks through. A lot of that has to do with the way the Cardinals finished the season, losing four of five and the offense sputtering beyond the impact of the loss of standout WR DeAndre Hopkins. Arizona doesn’t have an answer for Cooper Kupp, and that helps too.
Rams 24, Cardinals 21