With the wildest final week to a season in the books, we’re left with 14 teams fighting it out for the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
And with playoff brackets being filled out across the globe, it’s time to reveal my picks for one of the best weekends in Sports.
NFL Super Wild Card Weekend Preview – Money Line Special
*All picks are Money Line only. 2021 regular season handicap record: W-L-D: 44-44-2 49%
Raiders @ Bengals (-5.5) – Saturday 21:30
A story of two maligned 21st century franchises intertwine in the biggest of all spots on Saturday night.
The Raiders haven’t won a playoff game in 19 years: The Bengals haven’t won a playoff game in 31 years!
But someone has to progress and Cincy will start the game favourites with the almost-breaking-the-glass-ceiling QB Joe Burrow under center.
What a season the sophomore has had; over 4,500 yards with 34 TDs and no INTs.
That combined with superstar WR Ja’Marr Chase and a stout run game featuring Joe Mixon, has given the Bengals all kinds of juice on Offense.
Raiders QB Derek Carr and Interim HC Rich Bisaccia deserve a ton of credit for snapping Vegas’ five-year playoff drought.
But I feel a Divisional Round game is a step too far for them to make.
Their defense is adequate, but Burrow has been feasting on ‘adequate’ defences all season.
The Bengals have had more ‘big plays’ than any other team this year by a margin of eight. Even if only two or three happen Saturday, it’ll be enough for them to get a lead which they can ride out.
Back the Bengals in what will be an emotional Paul Brown Stadium.
Prediction: Raiders 24 Bengals 30
Patriots @ Bills (-4) – Sunday 01:15
Sometimes the third piece of a trilogy doesn’t live up to the first two showings (looking at you Godfather III), but I don’t think it’ll be the case here.
With the score locked at 1-1, these two AFC East foes will duke it out in what could be a frozen tundra at Orchard Park.
Temperatures are set to be around -15 degrees; last time there were adverse conditions the Patriots beat down the Bills even with the passing game serving up THREE attempts.
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But this is a different, battle-hardened Bills who have recent postseason chops. If Mac Jones has hit the ‘QB wall’ as some have predicted, will he be able to keep up with the freakish talents of Josh Allen?
Can the two-headed RB tandem of Damien Harris and Rahmondre Stevenson (if both are fit) have more production against a Bills team who gave up the fourth-most rushing TDs in the league this season?
If the answer is yes to those two questions, then the Patriots have more than a chance.
But I like Buffalo at home because I feel player for player, there is just more talent as a squad overall. Allen has been iffy over the last few weeks but we’ve seen him get it together in the biggest of games before. Buffalo prevail in a close one.
Prediction: Patriots 28 Bills 31
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Eagles @ Buccaneers (-8.5) – Sunday 18:00
Morecambe and Wise. Cream and Jam. Tom Brady and the playoffs. Some things are just meant to be together and the GOAT will gear up for his 46th postseason game, and who dares bet against the man who has more shiny gems than Thanos?
These two met in the regular season with the Bucs prevailing by six points in a tough contest.
That was when Tampa had Leonard Fournette healthy, Chris Godwin healthy and Antonio Brown an active member of the roster.
They’ve lost all of them on offense with only Fournette scheduled to come back at any point.
They’ve also looked a little shaky on run defense lately, with the Jets in particular finding success a fortnight ago. Good thing for Philly then that they have the best rushing attack in the league.
But overall it’s hard to bet against the Bucs who, other than their annual regular season implosion against their kryptonite in the Saints, went an almost-perfect 7-1 at home.
Brady has been relying on lesser receivers like Tyler Johnson, Breshad Perriman and Scotty Miller and they will need to provide relief for Rob Gronkowski and Mike Evans.
But it will be enough to send the Bucs one step closer to repeating a championship.
Prediction: Eagles 24 Buccaneers 34
49ers @ Cowboys (-3) – Sunday 21:30
I’m sure you were waiting for an upset alert. Let’s bring out the sirens in deepest darkest Texas! It’s been way, way, WAY too long for Dallas but they finally have a roster on paper that could go all the way.
They have a home game against a team that snuck in on the final weekend and are coming off the back of dropping a 50 bomb on a divisional playoff rival. So why do I have a feeling that the wheels are going to come off for America’s Team?
Maybe because the 49ers are a team that no-one wants to be facing right now.
They’ve allowed the third least yards per game in the league and have a player in Deebo Samuel who has shown he can run, catch and yes, pass, all within the last few weeks.
QB Jimmy Garoppolo has been cutting out the costly mistakes and showing his poise, as evidenced by the two-minute march down the field to take the game against the Rams to overtime on Sunday.
All the pressure is going to be on the Cowboys. It always is. And when you consider that the Niners have won at least one playoff game in every postseason appearance since 2001, there’s a big part of me that sees another heart-breaking loss for Jerry Jones and co.
Take San Fran, who may not be 12/1 for the NFC Championship much longer.
Prediction: 49ers 24 Cowboys 23
Steelers @ Chiefs (-13) – Monday 01:15
Like an Elephant stuck in a tree, you have no idea how Pittsburgh have found themselves in this position, but you can’t help but feel that things are going to come crashing down with a thud.
Big Ben has one more game but it’s at the home of the back-to-back AFC Champions.
There were just the 26 points between the two teams when they met on Boxing Day and it’s hard to make a case where a similar result doesn’t occur on Sunday Night.
Patrick Mahomes has had a quiet season by his standards… Of course, a quiet season for him still involves multiple impossible passes per game.
The defense has been what has set the tone in the second half of the season for KC and with QB Roethlisberger, let’s say nicely, not the most active in the pocket anymore, it could be hunting season for the front seven.
The game for the Steelers rests on Ben getting the ball out to all and sundry as quickly as possible, and TJ Watt to have a day and take over the game.
The now-joint single season all-time Sack leader needs to carry the franchise on his considerably broad shoulders and keep this as low scoring as possible. And as superhuman as he is, I can’t see it being enough at Arrowhead.
Thanks for the memories Big Ben.
Prediction: Steelers 14 Chiefs 27
Cardinals @ Rams (-4) – Tuesday 01:15
These two have gone from elite contenders to one-and-done merchants to, probably somewhere in between.
But both will have seen the struggles the other has had over the past few games and fancy their chances.
Will Rams QB Matt Stafford give up some of his all-too-familiar costly picks in what’s just his fourth playoff game? Will Kyler Murray live up to the claims of his HC Kliff Kingsbury and play the ‘best game of his career’?
There’s many intriguing subplots to this one.
With WR DeAndre Hopkins ruled out for Arizona, Murray will need to make magic with his legs just as much as with his hands.
The loaded Rams defense has plenty of big names to make big plays. Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey can dominate up front and in the backfield, while the shock signing of Eric Weddle, out of retirement and suiting up for the first time in two years, can help put some clamps on what remains of the Cardinals receiving corps.
And yet… We’ve seen what cojones Arizona possesses, when they beat up Dallas on the road. And we’ve seen Stafford regress from the start of the season, throwing eight picks in his last four games.
I don’t trust either of these teams. But there’s something telling me that the Rams don’t have the same aura as before, highlighted by Sean McVay losing one of his most prized stats: Sunday against the Niners he lost after leading at the half, the first time it has happened as Rams HC in 46 games.
Cardinals win and the Rams look back on what could and perhaps, should have been.
Prediction: Cardinals 34 Rams 32
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