NFL Wild Card Picks - Early Games

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NFL Wild Card Early Games

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Week 18 Results: Rick: 6-9-1; Coin: 8-7-1
Cumulative: Rick: 128-140-4; Coin: 125-143-4


Saturday, January 15

Las Vegas Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals (-6 1/2, 49 1/2) 4:30 pm - Joe Burrow's had a hot hand late in the season, coming through with wins over Denver, Baltimore and Kansas City to clinch the AFC North in week 17. Burrow did not play in the Bengals' 21-16 loss at Cleveland last week, as the game meant nothing.

In week 11, the Bengals played at Las Vegas, whipping the Raiders to the tune of 32-13. Burrow threw for only 148 years, but he didn't need to do much as Joe Mixon rushed for 123 yards and a pair of TDs. The game was much closer than the final score indicates, though. Half way through the fourth quarter, the Bengals were clinging to a 16-13 lead, but scored 17 points in the final 5:03 to ice the victory.

The Raiders played themselves into the playoffs with Sunday night's 35-32 overtime win over the Chargers, which eliminated LA from the playoffs. Prior to that, Las Vegas won three straight, topping the Browns, Broncos, and Colts. QB Derek Carr has started every game this season for the Raiders, who overcame turmoil and tragedy - and a mis-season stretch where they lost five of six - to reach the post-season.

Both teams are healthy, with most starters available. The Raiders' defensive line may make Burrow uncomfortable and force a turnover or two, leading to a possible upset. Las Vegas is very focused and mission-oriented.

Coin Flip: Cincinnati

Prediction: Raiders 31 Bengals 27



New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills (-4, 43) 8:15 pm - This will be the third time these AFC East rivals have met, splitting the prior two, each notching road wins in the regular season. The Patriots won in week 13, 14-10, at Buffalo. The Bills returned to Foxboro for a 33-21 win in week 16.

Both bring excellent defense into the equation. The Bills were #1 in yards, allowed, averaging 272.8 per game, the Patriots were 4th (310.8) They were 1-2 in points allowed, Buffalo, 17.0, New England, 17.8.

Given Buffalo's lack of depth at running back, New England may be able to keep Josh Allen and the Bills' offense somewhat under wraps, as they did in their prior victory, but Allen has proven a nifty runner with great instincts, so the Pats will have their hands full.

New England's offense offers more diversity and may prove to be a difference-maker in what may be a defensive struggle. Field position, third-and-fourth down strategy, kicking, and turnovers will be important elements to a winning effort. Both teams are likely to unwrap some new formations and trick plays to throw the opponent off-stride. This figures to be close until the end, so the points may be the difference.

Coin Flip: Buffalo

Prediction: Bills 24 Patriots 22


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