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Seattle Seahawks (9-8) at San Francisco 49ers (13-4), Saturday, 4:30 p.m. EST, FOX
This is when everything really matters. San Francisco has had success this season with every quarterback on their roster, including Mr. Irrelevant himself, Brock Purdy. Purdy has helped the team remain a contender, and been an asset to the best defense in the NFL. The question everyone has is, can he keep doing it in the playoffs? Can he do it against elite talent? The Seahawks are far from what I would call elite on any side of the ball. Geno Smith is my pick this year for Comeback Player of the Year, but I can’t see him being the guy to lead the Seahawks past this 49ers defense.
The 49ers will win this game, but the Seahawks will beat the spread.
Los Angeles Chargers (10-7) at Jacksonville Jaguars (9-8), Saturday, 8:15 p.m. EST, NBC
This game was the most difficult out of all the matchups for me to pick. Both teams have a very talented young quarterback, solid run games, and defenses that are good enough to allow their offense a chance to win it close at the end of games. For this one, I am going to go with the team I think has the better quarterback. As of right now, a lot of people would take Trevor Lawrence over most of the young quarterbacks not named Allen, Burrow or Mahomes. But for me, Justin Herbert just needs to win a few games in the playoffs, and I see him being in the conversation with those guys already. His chemistry with Keenan Allen will prove to pay dividends this weekend.
The Chargers get the win on the road, and win by more than a field goal. Make it a full touchdown.
Miami Dolphins (9-8) at Buffalo Bills (13-3), Sunday, 1:00 p.m. EST, CBS
Things appear to have become a lot less interesting on paper. The Dolphins announced that quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has been ruled out of this weekend’s game as a result of him not being cleared from concussion protocol. The Bills, however, are entering this game healthier than they have been all season. I expect the Bills to fully dominate this game on both sides of the ball. The Bills’ offense will have plenty of opportunities to score, because I don’t believe that the Dolphins will be able to stay on the field long enough to keep Josh Allen on the sidelines.
The Bills will win, cover this spread, and look to continue their momentum of their current seven-game winning streak into the playoffs.
New York Giants (9-7-1) at Minnesota Vikings (13-4), Sunday, 4:30 p.m. EST, FOX
I think Minnesota’s luck is finally coming to an end. All year, they have won close games and made very impressive come-from-behind efforts to lead them to the No. 3 seed in a very top-heavy NFC. But they have not been dominant at any point of the year, and this is the time when they need to be. Brian Daboll has his team motivated, and they feel that they can control the clock with a strong run game and preventing turnovers. I think the legend of Kirk Cousins grows here, and I don’t mean that as a compliment. For his career, he just hasn’t been successful in prime time games or in the playoffs. Green Bay laid out a blueprint for teams to follow against Justin Jefferson, and the Giants have an offensive mind that can figure out how to keep up with the best of them, even if they can’t contain Jefferson.
I think Daboll shocks the world and gives the Giants their first playoff win since 2012. Upset city in Minneapolis.
Baltimore Ravens (10-7) at Cincinnati Bengals (12-4), Sunday, 8:15 p.m. EST, NBC
This game had the potential to be so good had Lamar Jackson been the starting quarterback for the Ravens. I’m not going to say they have no chance at winning, but their chances dramatically decrease if he can’t go. Ravens wide receiver Sammy Watkins admitted to being selfish, but he also would like to see Jackson on the field this Sunday night. The Bengals have an explosive offense, and have been playing their best football of the year over the last nine weeks.
If Jackson can’t go, I expect the Bengals to win and cover the spread. If Jackson plays and is even 80%, then I would still take the Bengals, but expect a closer game. The Ravens would beat the spread.
Dallas Cowboys (12-5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-9), Monday, 8:15 p.m. EST, ESPN
Everything in me wants to believe the Cowboys aren’t the same old team that they’ve been in the playoffs over the last couple of decades. Every year, it seems like the Cowboys have one of the most talented rosters that can boast a high-powered offense and a selfish defense. And this year is no exception; they have stars on both sides of the ball, and have had the league’s highest-scoring offense since Dak Prescott returned from injury earlier in the season. But now it’s the playoffs, and they have to face Tom Brady. The Buccaneers looked disappointing for most of the season, and only made the playoffs because their division was so bad. But I’ve learned my lesson in the past: never bet against Brady.
The Cowboys are hardly favored, even though on paper, they are the better team. I am going to take Brady and the Buccaneers to cover and send Michael Irvin home disappointed.