Wild Card Weekend Game-by-Game Predictions

Wild Card Weekend Predictions

The regular season is over, and the NFL playoffs is right around the corner, starting with Wild Card Weekend. Thanks to recent changes to playoff formatting, there are now six games to discuss, so let’s not waste any time and get right to the Wild Card Weekend predictions.

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NFL Playoffs: Predictions for Every Game of Wild Card Weekend

San Francisco 49ers (-9.5) vs Seattle Seahawks

Who needs a highly-drafted quarterback when you’ve got Brock Purdy? The final pick in the 2022 NFL Draft has already proved to be well worth the investment, keeping San Francisco’s season alive while posting astonishing efficiency numbers. Since taking over for an injured Jimmy Garoppolo, Purdy ranks sixth in the league in EPA/play and fifth in the league in QBR. Yes, San Francisco’s incredibly friendly scheme is bolstering his numbers to an extent, but it’s clear the kid can play and he should have no problem carving up a subpar Seattle defense.

Geno Smith is one of the best feel-good stories of the year, but the former second-round pick has faltered a bit down the stretch. He’s still playing like a solid quarterback, but solid isn’t going to be enough to take down the elite San Francisco 49ers defense. This unit is absolutely loaded from top to bottom, and Seattle hasn’t faired well against the 49ers this year, combining to score just 20 points in their two regular season matchups. The Seahawks deserve a lot of credit for making the playoffs, but their journey likely ends here.

Prediction: 49ers 27, Seahawks 17

Jacksonville Jaguars (+2) vs Los Angeles Chargers

This should be one of the best games of the weekend. The Jacksonville Jaguars are riding something of a hot streak, as Trevor Lawrence has finally looked the part of the first-overall pick. While the defense is nothing to write home about, Lawrence’s game-breaking talent combined with the reliable offensive weaponry gives the Jaguars a chance to win just about every game they play.

That being said, Justin Herbert is on the other sideline, and it’s never easy to bet against him. Herbert didn’t play up to his abilities midway through the season, but most of the blame there can be placed on injuries to both himself and his top two receivers. Herbert’s fully healthy now, as is Keenan Allen, and it looks like Mike Williams is going to suit up. Both teams have average defenses, above-average weapons, and serviceable coaching staffs, so this one will likely go down to the quarterback. While Lawrence is great, he’s not quite at Herbert’s level yet.

Prediction: Jaguars 20, Chargers 24

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Buffalo Bills (-13) vs Miami Dolphins

Skylar Thompson is facing off against Josh Allen, do I need to say anything more?

Prediction: Bills 31, Dolphins 7

Minnesota Vikings (-3) vs New York Giants

Just about everyone in the football world will agree that the Minnesota Vikings are not as good as their 13-4 record implies. That being said, they still deserve to be in the playoffs. The defense is adequate, ranking 16th in the league in EPA/play, while the offensive side of the ball has the potential to be lethal on any given drive, even if they don’t always live up to that potential. On paper, the New York Giants do not have a way to stop Justin Jefferson, and he could easily take the game over if this turns into a shootout. Even if the Vikings try to attack on the ground, they should have plenty of success there. The Giants enter the postseason ranked 30th in rush EPA allowed/play, so Dalvin Cook could go off in this one.

The Giants, meanwhile, deserve a ton of praise for making it this far. Daniel Jones has improved under first-year head coach Brian Daboll, and the team has weathered an absurd amount of injuries to make the playoffs for the first time since 2016. The Giants are definitely ahead of schedule in the rebuild, but this looks like the end of the road for one of the most surprising teams in the 2022 season.

Prediction: Vikings 23, Giants 17

Cincinnati Bengals (-7) vs Baltimore Ravens

Jump on this line now before it changes. The Cincinnati Bengals are going to absolutely demolish the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday Night. The Ravens offense has been completely lost since Lamar Jackson went down to injury, and all signs point toward the former MVP missing the Wild Card Round. To make matters worse, Tyler Huntley reportedly didn’t throw a pass during Wednesday’s practice, so he’s clearly not at 100%.

Even if Huntley does play, he hasn’t exactly set the world on fire in Jackson’s absence. Since taking over as the starter in Week 14, the Ravens rank 28th in EPA/dropback and 24th in EPA/play. This offense simply cannot move the ball, and it’s hard to see that changing in the playoffs. Cincinnati, meanwhile, is playing some of the best football in the league and should win this game comfortably.

Prediction: Bengals 27, Ravens 13

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+2.5) vs Dallas Cowboys

Finishing up these Wild Card Weekend predictions is a matchup between the greatest quarterback ever and the most iconic franchise in the league. Tampa Bay comfortably won this matchup back in Week 1, but a lot has changed since then.

The Cowboys have arguably the best defense in football, led by a ferocious front seven and one of the best defensive players in the league in Micah Parsons. Offensively, CeeDee Lamb has proven he can thrive as the top option in the passing attack, while Tony Pollard has established himself as one of the better runners in football. Dak Prescott has turned the ball over too much this year, but even with that flaw, he’s still played good football when healthy.

On paper, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the pieces to match the Cowboys and pull off a win. The defense has plenty of talent, and the offense is loaded with potential. However, head coach Todd Bowles and offensive coodinator Byron Leftwich are actively holding back the team with their archaic coaching philosophies. The team has no running game, yet Leftwich insists on running the ball on just about every first down.

This offense is one of the best in the league when running no huddle, and that’s because Tom Brady calls the shots in those situations. If the Buccaneers learned anything from their Week 17 win over the Carolina Panthers, they’ll let Brady air it out and take full control of the offense. If, however, they continue to show an inability to learn from their mistakes, then they’ll create a large deficit and need Brady to pull off a miracle in the final quarter. Based on everything we’ve seen this year, there is no reason to believe Bowles and Leftwich are smart enough to adapt and overcome their own limitations.

Prediction: Cowboys 23, Buccaneers 17

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