NFL Wild Card Picks: Patriots, 49ers Poised For Postseason Upsets?

The playoff party begins this weekend

by and

January 14, 2022

We made it, football fans. The NFL playoffs are finally here, and it’s one of the best times of year to be a sports bettor.

It might not be an especially profitable time, though. NFL lines already are the sharpest in sports, and the hyper-focused nature of the postseason might as well be a whetstone for the odds. But that’s not going to stop us from betting into them and making our predictions.’s Mike Cole and Ricky Doyle are back to make their weekly against-the-spread picks. The duo is excited for a fresh start after a pedestrian regular season, and they get their first chance Saturday afternoon as the NFL kicks off its Super Wild Card Weekend.

Before we get to the picks, though, here’s how they fared last week in the regular-season finale.

Now, here are their wild-card round picks, with lines from DraftKings Sportsbook.


Las Vegas Raiders at (-5) Cincinnati Bengals, 4:30 p.m. ET
Mike: Raiders.
The one thing Vegas really does well is pressure the quarterback, and the Raiders don’t have to blitz much in order to do it. The Bengals allowed Joe Burrow to be pressured on 25% of his dropbacks, resulting in Burrow — despite his greatness — leading the league in QB miscues (combined interceptions, fumbles, sacks). While a Vegas outright win feels unlikely, the Raiders can do enough to keep it within the number.
Ricky: Raiders. Still don’t think Vegas is that good. The Raiders won six games on the final play and had a minus-65 point differential, worst among playoff teams. They’re also in a tough spot scheduling-wise, playing the early game Saturday, on the road, after an emotionally draining, pressured-packed Sunday night showdown with the Los Angeles Chargers, whereas the Bengals are coming off a de facto bye in Week 18. But sometimes, you just need to let it ride. And Cincinnati, which hasn’t won a playoff game since 1990, has problems of its own. The Bengals faced a much softer schedule, deploy a vulnerable offensive line and could have trouble stopping the Darren Waller/Hunter Renfrow combo.

New England Patriots at (-4) Buffalo Bills, 8:15 p.m.
Mike: Patriots.
Josh Allen’s problems in the cold have become a pretty popular storyline this week with frigid temperatures in the forecast for Orchard Park, N.Y. The Patriots were especially effective in the regular season against turnover-prone teams, and only three QBs had more turnover-worthy plays than Allen (per Pro Football Focus). The Patriots should just bulk up and try to bully Buffalo on the ground until the Bills prove they can stop it. New England seems very live, although it could be a field goal game either way.
Ricky: Bills. The Patriots hit a wall down the stretch, during which some of their biggest flaws were exposed. The Bills, meanwhile, are peaking at the right time, on top of just generally being the more talented, more well-rounded team. If New England falls behind early — which has been a problem — and needs to throw its way back into the game, this could be a long night for Bill Belichick’s bunch. We also should remind you, just for kicks, that a rookie quarterback hasn’t won his first playoff start since Russell Wilson in 2012. Mac Jones has his hands full, both with the Bills and defying history.


Philadelphia Eagles at (-9.5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1 p.m.
Mike: Bucs.
It’s a brutal matchup for the Eagles, who really need to run the ball to have success. The key to beating the Bucs, though, is to expose that secondary, which Philly seems unlikely to do — especially if Tampa Bay gets out to an early lead. The Bucs’ offense doesn’t have the same weapons it did two months ago, but don’t be surprised if it’s a big game for Rob Gronkowski. No team allowed more receptions or touchdowns to tight ends than the Eagles.
Ricky: Bucs. Maybe the Eagles pressure Tom Brady enough to throw him off his game. And maybe Tampa Bay’s lack of weapons becomes an issue. But the more likely scenario is the Bucs stuff the Eagles’ ground attack, forcing Jalen Hurts to throw far more frequently than Philadelphia would like while trying to keep pace with one of the NFL’s best offenses. The Eagles finished just 9-8 straight-up despite facing the league’s second-easiest schedule, per Pro Football Focus. They didn’t beat a single team with a winning record and suffered six losses to eventual playoff teams by an average of 13.3 points per game.

San Francisco 49ers at (-3.5) Dallas Cowboys, 4:30 p.m.
Mike: 49ers.
This one comes down to Jimmy Garoppolo. More specifically, can he avoid the costly turnovers? Only one QB with at least 400 dropbacks had a higher rate of turnover-worthy plays. But if he avoids the meltdown, the 49ers should win this outright. The Cowboys struggle to stop the run, and no team has a more advanced running attack than San Fran. Even if Dallas took away the run, a Garoppolo-led short passing attack could be problematic, too, with the Niners ranking first in yards after catch per reception and the Cowboys allowing the fourth-most YAC.
Ricky: 49ers. Control the line of scrimmage and take care of the football. That was San Francisco’s recipe for success two years ago when it reached the Super Bowl, and the ingredients are there to serve that dish again this postseason. The Niners finally are healthy, which is bad news for the rest of the NFC, and an outright upset certainly is in play this Sunday if Dallas’ run defense doesn’t step up. It’s worth mentioning the Cowboys went 6-0 SU against the (weak) NFC East and 6-5 against everyone else. It’s a talented team, sure, but by no means indestructible.

Pittsburgh Steelers at (-12.5) Kansas City Chiefs, 8:15 p.m.
Mike: Chiefs.
Hammer the Patrick Mahomes unders in this one, as KC’s path to an easy win should come on the ground. No team in the NFL allowed more rushing yards per carry than Pittsburgh, and if the Chiefs take advantage of that, there’s not nearly enough offensive firepower to take advantage of opportunities when the Steelers have the ball.
Ricky: Chiefs. Kansas City beat Pittsburgh 36-10 in Week 16 after jumping out to a 30-0 lead. Has anything really changed since then? The Chiefs cleaned up their early-season turnover problems, and despite the optics veering a bit from what we’re accustomed to seeing, Kansas City still ranked second in offensive efficiency, fourth in points per game (28.2) and fifth in yards per play (5.9). No way the Steelers, with Ben Roethlisberger’s rag arm, can keep pace.


Arizona Cardinals at (-4) Los Angeles Rams, 8:15 p.m.
Mike: Rams.
Getting J.J. Watt back theoretically should help an Arizona defense that went from first in points per drive with him on the field to one of the worst teams without him. But if he’s not 100% and can’t make a big impact, the Cardinals might get torched in the secondary. A Week 14 loss to the Rams started their tailspin, as the Arizona secondary allowed opposing QBs to post a 121.9 passer rating (worst in the NFL) despite the 10th-best pressure rate. Even when they get home, they can’t slow down the passing game, which should have Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr. ecstatic.
Ricky: Rams. The Cardinals have a ton of talent. But ultimately, their Super Bowl hopes fall on the shoulders (and legs) of one man: Kyler Murray. And while Murray is a dynamic QB, he’s also streaky and prone to putting the ball in harm’s way. Interestingly, Murray had 13 fumbles during the regular season but didn’t lose any of them. That trend changes this week thanks to some of the game-wreckers — most notably Aaron Donald — on the Rams’ defense.

Thumbnail photo via Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports Images

Picked For You