NFL Wild Card Picks - Late Games

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NFL Wild Card Late Games

All times Eastern

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Sunday, January 16

Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-8 1/2, 49) 1:00 pm - Philadelphia took advantage of an easy schedule down the stretch to go from 5-7 in week 12 to 9-7 in week 17 to earn a wild card spot, beating the Giants, Jets, and the Redskins twice over the four week stretch. Last week's 51-26 loss to the Cowboys had no bearing on seeding, so it should be disregarded.

Hosting Tampa Bay back in week six, the Eagles tested the Buccaneers' mettle in a 28-22 loss, proving they can stay on the field with the reigning champs. Some are going to look at that score and Tampa Bay's depleted receiving corps and figure on a Philly upset to send the Bucs home early, and that may be tempting, but remembering that Tom Brady is going to be on the field may temper their enthusiasm.

The Buccaneers won the NFC South going away, with a 13-4 record. Tom Brady led the league in passing, amassing 5,316 yards, 43 TDs (1st), and 12 picks. He's going to find ways through the Eagle defense, one way or another.

While Brady will be without the services of Antonio Brown (freaked out on field, quit the team) and Chris Godwin (IR), he still has plenty with which to work, including Mike Evans, Breshad Perriman, Ty Johnson, Rob Gronkowski, and Scotty Miller. Plus, Leonard Fournette should be back from a hamstring injury.

Thinking that Brady might not have enough complementary players is kind of a death wish. He's proven over many seasons to be effective with whatever players surround him.

Besides, the Tampa Bay defense is experienced and battle-tested. They may severely limit QB Jalen Hurts and the Philly offense.

Coin Flip: Philadelphia

Prediction: Buccaneers 38 Eagles 24


San Francisco 49ers at Dallas Cowboys (-3, 50 1/2) 4:30 pm - Not a lot of confidence in the NFC East champions as the line makes Dallas a mere three-point favorite. It's probably because they're playing possibly the best wild card in the NFC. The 49ers earned their way into the playoffs by taking out the Rams Sunday in overtime, 27-24, completing a run from a 3-5 record in week nine to a 10-7 mark at season's end.

The 49ers won seven of their last nine games and they needed to defeat the NFC West-Champion Rams because New Orleans topped the Falcons, 30-20, finished 9-8, and had a tie-breaker over San Francisco.

How the emotion of making the playoffs will affect them is not certain. They are one of the younger teams in the NFL, so some guidance from the coaching staff is going to be needed before the trip to Dallas.

Dallas was 7-4 at the conclusion of week 12, but won three straight road games at New Orleans Washington, and New York (Jets) before blasting Washington again at home, 56-14, and into the playoffs. Dad Prescott has had some stellar performances this season. He's key to the Cowboys' success, throwing to the likes of CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper, and tight end Dalton Schultz. RB Tony Pollard may get the bulk of the carries, as Ezekiel Elliott hasn't been right most of the season, nursing a bad knee among other maladies.

The 49ers will rely on a stingy defense and the arm of Jimmy Garoppolo to get past the Cowboys. Jimmy G has an eclectic bunch around him, including Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and tight end George Kittle.

Both teams have inpressive lines, both offensive defenses, which could cause a stalemate up front and a defensive-style struggle. The 49ers allowed fewer yards rushing and passing than Dallas, but more scoring, giving up 21.5 to the Cowboys' 21.1. It's a minor amount, and should work in the 49ers favor.

Coin Flip: San Francisco

Prediction: 49ers 23 Cowboys 20



Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs (-12 1/2, 46 1/2) 8:15 pm - One would have to assume that the Ben Roethlisberger fantasy experience ends in Kansas City, as the reigning AFC champions embark on another playoff journey.

The Steelers managed to squeeze into the playoffs due to the unexpected upset by the Jaguars over the Colts, which only had to win to get into the playoffs and, in the process, would have eliminated both the Steelers and Ravens.

Pittsburgh gutted out a 16-13 victory in overtime in blustery Baltimore, with Roethlisberger guiding the Steelers to a winning field goal with 1:56 in the extra session. Kansas City spent Sunday off after downing Denver on the road, 28-24, draping up what turned out to be the #2 seed. Unless the Chiefs end up having to play the Titans, they'll be home for however long their playoff run lasts.

Kansas City, is, as usual, loaded, and they have what amounts to a pretty good defense to go along with the wild assortment of offensive weapons. The Chiefs gave up a lot of yardage during the regular season (6,272), but were #8 in points allowed, at 21.4 per outing. That figure may be a little misleading, however. From week six through 16, the Chiefs gave up just 14.3 points on average, a number that compares well with the leading defenses in the league, Buffalo (17.0) and New England (17.8).

At home, the Chiefs should be all over the Steelers. After all, it was just a few weeks ago (Dec. 26) that Kansas City burned Pittsburgh, 36-10. Patrick Mahomes was 23-30, 258 yards, and three touchdowns. This may be even worse.

Coin Flip: Pittsburgh

Prediction: Chiefs 42 Steelers 13


Monday, January 17

Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams (-4, 50) 8:20 pm - For all the talk about how great the LA Rams defense was supposed to be, they turned out to be just ordinary, ranking 15th in points allowed (21.9), tied with the Dolphins. That's not a put-down, just a salient fact as the Rams and Cardinals meet for the third time this season.

In week four, the Cardinals were unstoppable, streaking toward a 7-0 record, as they dismantled the Rams in Los Angles, 37-20. Later on, in week 14, the Rams paid it back, topping the Cardinals, 30-23, in Arizona. That loss began a three-game losing streak for the Cardinals, all with Kyler Murray at QB, but possibly a little gun-shy after missing three weeks due to injury. What the Cardinals were missing during that three-game skid was RB James Conner, who was in full gear last week in Arizona's 38-31 home loss to the Seahawks.

The week 18 defeat may come up huge as the Cardinals could have won the division with the Rams losing to the 49ers. However, Arizona is 8-1 on the road and the Rams, 5-3, at home. Some mixed signals there.

Los Angeles of course is favored, having added Matthew Stafford at QB during the off-season. His addition has paid off as the Rams finished tied with Cincinnati in points scored, at 27.1 per game, good for 7th overall. The Cardinals were 11th, at 26.4.

While this game might look like a toss-up, it also could be considered heavily leaning toward the Rams, who have an assortment of offensive weapons at their disposal, including the incomparable Cooper Kupp, who lead the league in receptions (145), yards (1,947) and TDs by receivers (16). Add to that mix, running backs Sony Michel and Cam Akers, receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Van Jefferson and the Rams look very much the offensive powerhouse.

Coin Flip: Arizona

Prediction: Rams 31 Cardinals 20


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