By Dalton Rice
First off, an apology. Feels like I've done too many of these this season huh. The first game has kicked off, the Bengals are currently up 13-6 over Will Compton's Las Vegas Raiders. I had the Bengals winning this game before it started and I still like them to win.
This season was a doozy. Until the back half of the season, it didn't feel like there was a clear cut best team in football. There were certainly a few teams battling for worst in the league, but there were not games that you could mark as a guaranteed win. As a fan, you love to see that but as a sports gambler, you don't.
Super Wild Card Weekend Matchups
Raiders @ Bengals - Saturday Jan 15 @ 4:30PM EST
Joey B and his boys in the orange stripes have been rolling all season. Minus a few frustrating loses, this team has been a well-oiled machine featuring maybe the most fun offense in the league. Burrow having over 4,000 passing yards with his RB Joe Mixon and two wide receivers, Tee Higgins and Ja'Marr Chase tallying over 1,000 yards at age 25 or under is so impressive. The Raiders have won a few stunners, which they seemingly always do, but the Raiders injury scenario makes it tough to pick them
Patriots @ Bills - Saturday Jan 15 @ 8:15 EST
This game is a dream come true for Bills fan and Patriot haters alike. The first time these teams played this season, it might have been the worst professional football game ever televised. As fans, we want to see points and big plays. Other than an early Damien Harris run for a score, that game sucked. Mac Jones is super overrated. The Patriots defense let up more than 14 points only 9 times all year, in those games the team went 2-7. Mac Jones could not get the job done unless his defense was holding the opponents on their annual weak schedule to under 14 points. In those games, the Pats were 8-0. That blame doesn't exactly all fall on Mac, but when a team is losing games, the blame usually goes to the QB. Josh Allen is a tank and I see the Bills winning this game, but it will be close considering the weather report in Buffalo.
Eagles @ Buccaneers - Sunday Jan 16 @ 1PM EST
I tried to be as unbiased as possible with this pick because I am an Eagles fan, but it was closer than it should have been. The Bucs are super banged up with many starters getting questionable tags and Leonard Fournette, the guy who put up half of the teams points against the Eagles back in Week 6 being out, this game is very winnable for Philly. The only reason I stuck with Tampa Bay is because Tom Brady is pretty ok at the game of football and always figures out how to walk away with a win in the playoffs. The Eagles are at full strength however and I expect a super close game. Take the Eagles to cover +8.5.
49ers @ Cowboys - Sunday Jan 16 @ 4:30PM EST
This is my first and only upset of super wild card weekend. The Cowboys are a great football team. I hate playing them twice a year as a fan of a team in the NFC East. However, the 49ers are playing some great football and just won a great game over the LA Rams in overtime to close out the regular season. San Fran is playing with house money as a wild card team, but this roster is nothing to bat an eye at. The Cowboys are star-studded all over the depth chart, but their corners and cover LBs are extremely average (yes, Trevon Diggs isn't all that) and I see that being an issue against Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle. This feels like the most likely upset of this week, the next time we will see a game with a likable underdog is when the Packers make it to the NFC Championship and lose on their home field yet again.
Steelers @ Chiefs - Sunday Jan 16 @ 8:15PM EST
The Steelers are only in because the Chargers crumbled on defense in OT and didn't want a tie. Patrick Mahomes should absolutely dismantle this team on Sunday night and that might be an easier feat if Najee Harris isn't at 110% to make Big Ben look decent. Giving the Chiefs 12.5 points as favorites seems like a lot, but they are really that much better than the Steelers and really any other team in the AFC.
Cardinals @ Rams - Monday Jan 17 @ 8:15PM EST
This one took a lot of thinking based off the fact that the Rams have been below average at home. LA has allowed 20.8 points per game at home this season and that would place them at around middle of the pack in the league, not great for a team with 12 wins. Luckily, Matt Stafford and this offense score a lot, but you can't simply rely on scoring three touchdowns every game especially against a divisional opponent who averaged 25 points against you this season. Rams/Cardinals games are almost always high scoring, but you can't bet on trends continuing forever come playoff time.