NFL playoff picks, predictions for wild-card games: 49ers upset Cowboys; Bills, Cardinals win rubber matches

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NFL Wild card weekend is here with three days of exciting playoff matchups. 

Last season, the lower seed was 4-2 S/U in the wild card round. Where will the upsets come from this season? Will the Raiders continue their Cinderella run at Cincinnati? Joe Burrow will try to lead the Bengals to their first postseason victory since the 1990 playoffs.

A pair of divisional rubber matches should be interesting. New England travels to Buffalo, and Arizona meets Los Angeles on the road. 

A classic NFC rivalry is renewed when San Francisco travels to Dallas, and Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s farewell tour will make another stop in Kansas City. That leaves Tampa Bay, the defending Super Bowl champions. Tom Brady will look to start another Super Bowl run against Philadelphia. 

It’s a great weekend, for sure. Here are Sporting News picks for the wild card round. 

MORE NFL PLAYOFFS:
AFC & NFC bracket | TV schedule | Wild-card picks against spread

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NFL playoff picks, predictions for 2022 wild-card games

  • Las Vegas Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals (-6) 

Saturday, 4:35 p.m., NBC, Peacock 

Burrow’s first playoff start will be the focus, but the Bengals were content to give Joe Mixon 30 carries in the regular-season matchup, which he took for 123 yards and two TDs. The Raiders have tightened up on run defense since, and they have the confidence that comes with winning four straight one-score games. Cincinnati has lost its last seven playoff games. Burrow ends that streak with a late connection to Ja’Marr Chase, but it doesn’t come easy. 

Pick: Bengals 31, Raiders 28

  • New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills (-4.5) 

Saturday, 8:15 p.m., CBS, Paramount+

Josh Allen passed for 314 yards and three TDs in the second matchup between these teams. The road team won each regular-season matchup, and the intrigue around Bill Belichick leading another playoff run is there. Rookie Mac Jones will make his first playoff start, too. It’s a battle of the top-two scoring defenses in the NFL, and the forecast calls for snow. The temptation for a Patriots’ upset is there, but Buffalo comes through. 

Pick: Bills 26, Patriots 20 

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  • Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-8.5) 

Sunday, 1 p.m., FOX

The Eagles have been impressive with Jalen Hurts, but this is a large ask on the road. Tom Brady and the Buccaneers have put the drama around Antonio Brown’s release in the rear-view mirror. Tampa Bay will have to generate a running game to keep the Eagles’ defense honest, but Brady will connect with Rob Gronkowski for a pair of TDs. Chances are that the tandem remembers Super Bowl LII. 

Pick: Buccaneers 31, Eagles 21 

  • San Francisco 49ers at Dallas Cowboys (-3)  

Sunday, 4:30 p.m., CBS, Paramount+, Nickelodeon

The Cowboys have the top-statistical offense in the NFL. Dak Prescott has playmakers to work with, and Micah Parsons has been dominant all season. So, what’s the problem? San Francisco matches up well, and the 49ers are healthy. Jimmy Garoppolo will be supported by a strong running game, and a Nick Bosa-led defense causes a few turnovers. San Francisco presses on to another classic matchup against the Packers in the divisional round. 

Pick: 49ers 28, Cowboys 26

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  • Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs (-8.5) 

Sunday, 8:15 p.m., NBC

The Steelers rallied into the postseason, and they will be playing with nothing to lose behind Ben Roethlisberger, who is 13-9 in the postseason. Patrick Mahomes II, however, is at home, and this is the same Chiefs team that beat the Steelers 36-10 in Week 16. It’s closer this time, but the Chiefs move on. 

Pick: Chiefs 35, Steelers 20

  • Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams (-4) 

Monday, 8:15 p.m., ESPN, ABC, ESPN2

The Cardinals were 1-4 in their last five games, and they allowed 30 points per game in the four losses. The Rams won the NFC West, and this is Matthew Stafford’s chance to make a Super Bowl run. The Rams have won nine of the last 10 meetings. Despite all that, Kyler Murray nearly shakes up the NFC playoff picture by leading the Cardinals to a victory. 

Pick: Cardinals 33, Rams 30



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