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NFL Wild Card Picks for Sunday: Ravens vs Bengals Predictions, More

NFL Wild Card Picks for Sunday: Ravens vs Bengals Predictions, More article feature image
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Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Joe Burrow.

The NFL playoffs resume with three Wild Card games on Sunday to get things started.

All three matchups on Sunday, like every game in this round, is a regular-season rematch. It’s the first time the entire round has been full of rematches since 2009.

Here are my thoughts on Saturday’s slate, including what I bet and some fun guesses on the final scores for each. Enjoy the games and good luck on whatever you decide to bet.

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Dolphins Odds
Spread Total Moneyline
+13.5
-105
43.5
-105o / -115u
+610
Bills Odds
Spread Total Moneyline
-13.5
-110
43.5
-105o / -115u
-900
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NFL odds here.

I just don’t see how Miami’s underwhelming defense can slow down Buffalo’s explosive offense, especially considering Josh Allen excelled under pressure all season. That doesn’t bode well for the heavy blitzing Miami scheme.

Consequently, that will put pressure on Skylar Thompson (in a super hostile environment) to keep the Dolphins in the game with his arm. That likely won’t end well.

This is Bills or nothing all the way. And I didn’t even get to the massive special teams edge Buffalo holds.

Notable Nugget: Double-digit underdogs are 3-11 against the spread (ATS) in the playoffs since 2011. Double-digit underdogs in the Wild Card Round are 1-7 ATS in the last 20 years.

Final Score Prediction: Bills 30, Dolphins 13

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Giants Odds
Spread Total Moneyline
+3
-114
48.5
-104o / -118u
+132
Vikings Odds
Spread Total Moneyline
-3
-106
48.5
-104o / -118u
-158
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NFL odds here.

If you throw out an essentially meaningless Week 18 game against a tanking Bears team, each of the previous 11 Vikings‘ wins all came by one possession. Meanwhile, 13 of New York‘s 17 games were decided by one score.

Long story short: There’s a really good chance this game ends with the Vikings winning by one score, which is why I felt comfortable teasing the Giants up to +9 (with the Bucs) even if it isn’t the ideal “Wong teaser.”

When these two teams met a few weeks ago, the Vikings closed as a 4.5-point favorite. They ended up winning that game by a field goal, but the Giants finished with almost 100 more total yards and an edge of 1.7 yards per play.

Plus, since that contest, the Giants have a much better bill of health, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Don’t underestimate the importance of getting both Adoree Jackson and Xavier McKinney back from injury in the secondary, especially in this particular matchup. Justin Jefferson had 12 catches for 133 yards and a touchdown in the first meeting without those two on the back end.

With a healthier secondary, the pressure the Giants can generate pressure by blitzing could cause serious issues for Kirk Cousins. He has particularly struggled against the blitz this season in a new offensive scheme.

That could be even more problematic when you consider Minnesota‘s offensive line won’t be at full strength after losing stud right tackle Brian O’Neil to injury. That’s a massive loss that not enough people are talking about. It’s also worth noting starting center Garrett Bradbury is also dealing with an injury.

I think this line is pretty close to fair, although I’m closer to 2 when accounting for injuries and diving into the matchup a bit further, which is why I was comfortable teasing the Giants, even at +3.

This should go right down to the wire as you’d expect with both of these teams, but I’ll go with the mini upset and take the G-Men, who will also benefit from the familiarity of already having played in Minnesota earlier this season.

Notable Nugget: Daniel Jones is 13-2 (86.7%) ATS as a single-digit road underdog. However, since 2002, first-time starting quarterbacks against quarterbacks with playoff experience have gone just 14-35-1 ATS (28.5%).

Final Score Prediction: Giants 27, Vikings 24


Ravens Odds
Spread Total Moneyline
+8.5
-110
40.5
-110o / -110u
+360
Bengals Odds
Spread Total Moneyline
-8.5
-110
40.5
-110o / -110u
-460
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NFL odds here.

The Bengals have a massive edge at quarterback and wide receiver, which will likely prove to be the difference in this divisional showdown. However, I think this is far too many points for a franchise that has had as much success in this road spot under John Harbaugh than any organization over the past 15 years.

I believe the Ravens defense remains one of the most underrated units in the league since trading for Roquan Smith and getting a few key other pieces back from injury. They also have the cornerbacks on the outside who can at least match up with the dynamic Cincinnati wideouts. For what it’s worth, Joe Burrow has struggled when both Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphey have both been on the field.

Also, not enough are talking about the offensive line injuries Cincinnati has suffered on the right side with La’El Collins and now Alex Cappa. Burrow was under a lot of pressure in the second half of the past two games after those two respective injuries. Hakeem Adeniji and Max Scharping both out there are major liabilities.

Baltimore should own the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and can lean on its elite defense and major edge on special teams (and coaching) to keep this within the number. The Ravens won’t be afraid of this stage and just played in Cincinnati, which diminishes the home-field advantage even more in a divisional game.

The Ravens probably can’t get more than 20 with their limited offense. They haven’t scored more than 17 since losing Lamar Jackson, but I think they will try to follow the same formula they’ve used to win games in ugly fashion over that stretch, which should lead to a cover here without any key turnovers, which is what Tyler Huntley will give you the best chance of avoiding.

Run Dobbins all night, look for Andrews on third downs, take a deep shot every once in a blue moon down the sidelines and feel OK punting while relying on the defense and special teams. That’s the formula for a Ravens cover in a game that I believe will be closer than most.

Notable Nugget: John Harbaugh is 5-0 straight-up (SU) and ATS in road Wild Card games, covering by an average margin of 15 points per game.

Final Score Prediction: Bengals 20, Ravens 17


Cowboys Odds
Spread Total Moneyline
-2.5
-115
44.5
-106o / -114u
-142
Buccaneers Odds
Spread Total Moneyline
+2.5
-105
44.5
-106o / -114u
+120
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NFL odds here.

If the Cowboys didn’t stumble down the stretch — especially last week in Washington — this line likely would have been 3 or maybe even 3.5. Alas, we have a 2.5 instead, which does make the Bucs a perfect teaser piece. I paired them with the Giants, as I stated above.

That said, I do have much more concerns about the Cowboys in this particular matchup. Ever since the injury to cornerback Anthony Brown, their secondary has fallen off a cliff for a defense that has allowed the most yards per play of any team in the NFL over the past five weeks. Assuming the play-calling doesn’t get too vanilla on early downs, Tom Brady can pick apart this reeling defensive backfield — although the health of the center position is certainly worth monitoring.

If Ryan Jensen can come back, it could provide a huge boost to the Tampa offensive line. If he can’t and his backup’s injury is serious, that could create major problems for Brady, who does struggle with interior pressure. And Dallas can still generate pressure with the best of ’em.

Similarly, the passing offense has suffered a similar fate with Dak Prescott struggling in his reads with far too many turnovers. If you can slow down the potent Dallas rushing attack, you can stop this offense in its tracks. Making Dak Prescott beat you as a drop-back passer is the path to success for opposing defenses against the Cowboys.

So, can Tampa shut down Zeke and Pollard? I think so. On the season, their run defense didn’t live up to expectations. For example, the Bucs only ranked 20th in first down run defense.

However, their defensive numbers across the board were heavily influenced by injuries along the defensive line and in the secondary. With both Vita Vea and Akiem Hicks in the lineup, the Bucs went 6-1 while allowing only 3.9 yards per rush and 15 points per game. Without both, they went 2-7 while allowing 4.8 yards per rush and 25 points per game. That’s a drastic difference.

Combine the health up front to a now healthy secondary and this defense is as healthy as it’s been since holding the Cowboys to three points in a Week 1 victory.

I also believe the Dallas offense has some negative red zone regression coming its way, while the opposite is true for the Tampa defense. Everything points to the Buccaneer healthy defense being the undervalued unit in this game that ends up making the difference in the end.

Notable Nugget: The Cowboys lost to the Bucs 19-3 earlier this season. Teams that lost by double-digits in the regular season meeting that are listed as favorites in the playoff rematch have gone just 11-21 ATS (33.33%) over the past 20 years.

Final Score Prediction: Buccaneers 24, Cowboys 20

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