NFL Wild Card Round Picks: Early Bets for Chargers vs Jaguars, Cowboys vs Buccaneers, More
Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images. Pictured: Justin Herbert.
NFL Wild Card Round Odds & Picks
Brandon Anderson: This 5-seed was the best wild card spot in the bracket. Now, it’s on the Chargers to not blow the opportunity.
The Bolts match up well with Jacksonville. And if they triumph at TIAA Bank Field, they get another somewhat favorable opponent in the Chiefs. Los Angeles went wire-to-wire with Kansas City twice during the regular season, ultimately coming up short by a field goal each time.
But first, they have to take care of the Jaguars. Jacksonville’s one real strength is the pass game, but Los Angeles’ defense has turned it on since its bye in Week 8, ranking second in pass DVOA since then.
On defense, the Jaguars are bottom five against the pass. Not great, given the Bolts are super pass heavy with Justin Herbert, Keenan Allen, Austin Ekeler and others. Something to monitor, however, is the health of Mike Williams, who suffered a back injury in Denver.
The Chargers are better in all three phases and they finally look like the team they were supposed to be coming into the season. Grab this before it hits -3.
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Blake Krass: The Bills are a team of destiny.
Nyheim Hines returning the opening kickoff against New England for a touchdown on the first play since Damar Hamlin’s injury was an unbelievable moment. Hines then had a second kickoff return touchdown en route to the Bills’ win and cover.
That sets up the Bills to take on another division rival in the first round of the postseason — the Dolphins.
Below-freezing temperatures in Buffalo are expected next weekend, with a chance of snow. That is bad news for a Dolphins team that was recently using heaters on the sideline for a game in the low-60s.
Miami’s quarterback situation is also very much in the air. It’s uncertain whether Tua Tagovailoa will be ready to play due to his concussion issues. That leaves either Teddy Bridgewater with a dislocated finger or Skylar Thompson.
Thompson is not ready to play at this level and failed to lead any touchdown drives in Week 18 against the Jets. That game also saw the Dolphins’ top two weapons, Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, both get banged up.
The Dolphins are hobbling into this game and I expect the Bills to roll them. The Bills did just that in the first round last year, also against a division rival in the Patriots, winning 47-17 at home.
I think they win by two touchdowns, so I would bet this to -13.5.
Ricky Henne: Mike McCarthy and playoff choke jobs go together like peanut butter and jelly.
The only question is whether his annual postseason collapse comes next week against the Buccaneers, or in a subsequent round. Though, truth be told, you could argue that his January swoon’s already started after Dallas lost in embarrassing fashion to the lowly Commanders.
Now McCarthy leads the Cowboys into Tampa Bay against the most clutch quarterback in NFL history in Tom Brady. I hate the saying that you can throw the records out the window come playoffs. However, in this case, it rings true.
The Cowboys are a far cry from the dominant team they’ve been for most of the season, particularly on defense. The unit still ranks second in total DVOA (-14.0%), according to Football Outsiders, but they’ve struggled down the stretch, allowing 27.2 points per game over the final five weeks of the regular season.
To boot, it’s not like elite offenses have carved them up.
In Week 16, an Eagles team led by Gardner Minshew dropped 34 points on them. They also struggled more than expected in Week 17 against a Titans offense led by Joshua Dobbs and missing Derrick Henry. Finally, not to overreact to one game, but they just got carved up by Sam Howell in his NFL debut. The 2022 fifth-round pick accounted for two touchdowns and 204 total yards.
And, I think we can all agree, Howell is a far cry from Brady.
The Buccaneers have seemingly hit their stride on offense in recent weeks. Brady was in vintage form the last time we saw Tampa Bay’s starters in Week 17, completing 34-of-45 passes for 432 yards and three touchdowns. The Brady-Mike Evans connection was red-hot, connecting 10 times for 207 yards and a trio of scores.
It’s felt like the Cowboys and Buccaneers have been on a collision course for a Wild Card Weekend matchup for quite some time. But what many felt would be a chip shot for Dallas now looks like a dogfight.
The early line has Tampa Bay getting three points, which at this moment, I’m a fan of. I’ll ponder taking the Buccaneers straight up as the week progresses.