For the first time since 1970, the NFL’s Wild Card Weekend features rematches in all six games. From Tom Brady and the Bucs renewing acquaintances in Tampa against Dak Prescott and the Cowboys to divisional rivals Cincinnati and Baltimore meeting in the Queen City, each of the six wild card match-ups are dripping with history and subsequent storylines, and the team at NBC Sports EDGE has you set for Wild Card Weekend picks and predictions heading into the upcoming action.
As sports bettors size up each game and look for advantages they can take to the betting window they need to recognize and eliminate meaningless stats. For example, a team’s record in the regular season has proven to matter not one bit in the opening round of the postseason. Over the course of the last 14 seasons, teams that one more regular season games are just 25-26 SU and 21-29-1 ATS with the teams sharing the same record on nine occasions.
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Most people agree coaches and quarterbacks matter. First-time playoff coaches have been far more successful than rookie signal callers. In the last four years, rookie head coaches have gone 8-3 SU and ATS (72.7%) when facing a more experienced coach. Since 2004, first-year quarterbacks in their first playoff game have fared poorly, going 17-40 SU and 17-39-1 ATS (30.4%) when facing an opposing signal caller with playoff experience.
Take and do what you will with those stats. Know that our NFL staff at NBC Sports have gone beyond those numbers to find their favorite plays for each game this weekend on everything from sides and totals to player props. The group includes Jay Croucher (@croucherJD), Vaughn Dalzell (@VMoneySports), and Lawrence Jackson (@LordDontLose). Tail (or fade) as you see fit.
Seattle Seahawks vs San Francisco 49ers -9.5 (Over/Under 43)
Kickoff: January 14 at 4:30 p.m. ET (FOX)
Site: Levi’s Stadium – Santa Clara, CA
Series History: San Francisco swept the season series against Seattle in 2022, but the Seahawks lead the all-time series with a record of 30-19. They have met once in the playoffs with Seattle winning 23-17 in the 2013 NFC Championship Game.
Note: The 49ers rank 4th all-time with 32 playoff wins compiled over 27 years of playoff appearances – 26 in the NFL and one in the AAFC.
Croucher: DK Metcalf UNDER 61.5 Receiving Yards
Metcalf had 55 and 35 receiving yards in his two matchups against the Niners in the regular season. In the last game Metcalf was covered by Charvarius Ward, by far the Niners’ strongest corner. Expect Ward to get the Metcalf assignment again and the Seahawks to target Tyler Lockett more often, who will be covered by the weaker Deommodore Lenoir.
Dalzell: Seahawks +10
During the entirety of NFL history, only 14 times have teams defeated the same opponent three times in a single season. The 49ers will try to do just that versus the Seahawks here.
Seattle only managed 7 and 13 points in two meetings against San Francisco, but both situations were not ideal times to back the Seahawks. The Seahawks faced the 49ers in Week 2 fresh off a one-point win versus Russell Wilson and the Broncos on Monday Night Football. The second meeting came following a loss on a Sunday in Week 14 before playing the 49ers on Thursday Night Football (short week) in Week 15. The Seahawks will be better prepared this time around and rookie quarterbacks (e.g. Brock Purdy) often struggle in their first playoff starts as noted earlier.
Jackson: Kenneth Walker OVER 16.5 rushing attempts (-105)
Kenneth Walker’s 16.5 o/u (-105) on rushing attempts may be a trap, but I am taking the bait. He has averaged 26 carries in his last three games as the Seahawks have a made a concerted effort to run the ball taking some pressure off of Geno Smith. Interestingly enough, the last time Walker was under 16.5 carries (12) was against the 49ers in Week 15. The Seahawks are 9.5 points dogs, but even in a two-score loss against the Chiefs in Week 16, Walker had 26 carries.
Los Angeles Chargers -1 vs Jacksonville Jaguars (Over/Under 47.5)
Kickoff: January 14 at 8:15 p.m. ET (NBC and Peacock). Coverage begins with Football Night in America at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Site: TIAA Bank Field – Jacksonville, FL
Series History: Jacksonville mauled Los Angeles 38-10 on the road on September 25th this season, but the Chargers lead the overall series 9-4. This is the first meeting in the playoffs between the two.
Note: This is the only Wild Card matchup in 2023 between two 4,000-yard passers in Trevor Lawrence and Justin Herbert.
Croucher: Austin Ekeler OVER 36.5 Receiving Yards
No team allows more receiving yards to running backs than the Jags. The Jags rush defense has been excellent this season (6th best in Rush EPA allowed) and their pass defense has been dreadful. Expect the Chargers to target Ekeler in the passing game. In the first meeting between these two teams Ekeler was targeted 8 times for 48 receiving yards.
Dalzell: Justin Herbert OVER 37.5 Pass Attempts (-120)
Trevor Lawrence and Justin Herbert are both making their first career starts. I trust Herbert much more in this spot and given Herbert’s resume on NBC Sports Primetime games, I like the chances he lights it up in his first playoff game.
Herbert is second in the NFL with 4,739 yards and 279 or more yards in nine out of 17 games this season and 37 or more pass attempts in 11 games. I am expecting plenty of passes from Herbert, so back the Over on pass attempts at 37.5. I lean the Over 280.5 Passing Yards.
Jackson: Travis Etienne OVER 76.5 Rushing Yards (-110)
Etienne has averaged over 77 rushing yards over his last four games, including a 17-yard game against an elite Titans’ run defense. The Chargers have given up 100 or more rushing yards to three of the last four running backs they have faced. Zack Moss could not do it because Nick Foles was too busy giving the ball to the Chargers. You can run on this Chargers team until proven otherwise.
Miami Dolphins @ Buffalo Bills -9.5 (Over/Under 46.5)
Kickoff: January 15 at 1:00 p.m. ET (CBS)
Site: Highmark Stadium – Orchard Park, NY
Series History: Miami and Buffalo have met four times in the playoffs with the Bills winning three of the four. They have not faced each other, however, since 1999. Overall, these division rivals have played 118 times with the Dolphins going 62-55-1 in those games.
Note: Buffalo has won 10 of the last 11 meetings in Orchard Park against Miami. Watch this spread. If it gets to double digits, remember this: In the last 13 games featuring a spread of 10 or more points, the underdog has won outright just one time.
Croucher: James Cook OVER 36.5 Rushing Yards
Over the past two weeks the Buffalo running game has trended more to James Cook, with Cook out-carrying Devin Singletary. 36.5 is too low for a potential RB1 on a 13-point favorite.
Dalzell: Game Total UNDER 43.5 (-110)
Tua Tagovailoa is out for this matchup and now the spread moved from -9.5 to -13.5 in favor of Buffalo. With Skylar Thompson at quarterback, plus Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle dealing with injuries, I don’t see Miami scoring more than two touchdowns here, so I will take the Game Under.
Jackson: Josh Allen UNDER 33.5 Passing Attempts (-105)
In two games against the Dolphins this season, Josh Allen attempted 103 passes. With the Bills being 13.5 favorites, it doesn’t look likely he’ll need to do that again which is why I like him to go under 33.5 passing attempts. The Dolphins are ravaged with injuries, the biggest one being Tua Tagovailoa, who won’t be there to trade shots with Allen.
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New York Giants @ Minnesota Vikings -3 (Over/Under 48.5)
Kickoff: January 15 at 4:30 p.m. ET (FOX)
Site: U.S. Bank Stadium – Minneapolis, MN
Series History: Minnesota leads the series against New York with an all-time record of 18-12. The Giants, though, have defeated the Vikings in two of three meetings in the NFL Playoffs. They last met in the playoffs in the NFC Championship in 2001. New York won that game 41-0.
Note: The Vikings led the NFL in 4th quarter scoring this season averaging 9.9 points in the final 15. The Giants ranked 5th with an average of 7.4 points in the 4th each week.
Croucher: Game Total UNDER 48.0
Star Vikings tackle Brian O’Neill is out, starting center Garrett Bradbury is banged up and the Vikings run game has been awful of late. The Giants defense is the healthiest its been all season, with Adoree Jackson trending in the right direction to return, and the defensive line suddenly a serious strength, with Kayvon Thibodeaux 100% integrated alongside Dexter Lawrence, Leonard Williams and a healthy Azeez Ojulari. Everything points to a lower scoring game than the previous match-up.
Dalzell: Minnesota Vikings -3 (-110)
This looks like one the most challenging games to cap on the slate, but considering the Giants are 2-5-1 on the ML in the last eight games and they clearly are not playing their best brand of football and are worth a fade.
New York is 1-4 on the ML in the last five road games, only beating Washington. As a favorite, Minnesota has gone 12-0 on the ML this season compared to 1-4 as an underdog. I will take the Vikings as a favorite and back the more dynamic offense at home in a dome.
Jackson: Daniel Jones OVER 241.5 Passing Yards (-120)
Daniel Jones’ passing yardage number is set at 241.5 (-120) and I’m looking for him to go over that. Sure, he’s thrown for less than 200 yards in three of his last four games, but you know which one of those games he went over that? Against the Vikings, where Jones threw for 334 yards. Furthermore the Vikings are giving up a whopping 29.6 points per game in their last five contests. While most are riding Danny Dimes’ rushing props, think differently.
Baltimore Ravens @ Cincinnati Bengals -7 (Over/Under 42)
Kickoff: January 15 at 8:15 p.m. ET (NBC and Peacock)
Site: Paycor Stadium – Cincinnati, OH
Series History: Baltimore leads series with an all-time record of 28-25 against Cincinnati. These division rivals have never met in the playoffs.
Note: Joe Burrow is 19-4 ATS in his last 23 starts.
Croucher: Samaje Perine OVER 16.5 Rushing Yards
Perine has gone over this number in 7 of his past 8 games, albeit with Joe Mixon not present for 2 of those games. Perine squeaked over the line in both games against the Ravens (17 and 18 rushing yards). Cincinnati couldn’t run the ball at all against Baltimore last week (no run longer than 8 yards, 2.8 yards per carry overall), so look for them to potentially use Perine more than expected as a change of pace.
Dalzell: Game Total UNDER 41.5 (-110)
Lamar Jackson’s status in this game makes all the difference and if he is out, everyone will be on the Bengals, and rightfully so. Even if Jackson plays, there should be a significant rust factor for the quarterback who hasn’t played in over a month. Take the Bengals if Jackson is out, or take the Under if he is in.
Jackson: Ja’Marr Chase OVER 77.5 Receiving Yards (-115)
Ja’Marr Chase simply balls out against the Ravens. I’m taking the over at 77.5 (-115) yards. Chase averages 115.5 receiving yards per game in his career against the Ravens. Even if you subtract his 201-yard outburst as a rookie, he still averages 87 yards in meetings against the Ravens.
Dallas Cowboys -2.5 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Over/Under 45.5)
Kickoff: January 16 at 8:15 p.m. ET (ABC/ESPN)
Site: Raymond James Stadium – Tampa, FL
Dallas Playoff History: 35-29 (8 Super Bowl appearances – 5 wins)
Tampa Bay Playoff History: 11-10 (2 Super Bowl appearances – 2 wins)
Series History: Dallas and Tampa Bay have met 21 times including two playoff games. The Cowboys have won 15 of the 21 games including both playoff games. The Bucs, however, have defeated Dallas in their season opener each of the last two seasons.
Note: Buccaneers’ quarterback Tom Brady is a perfect 7-0 in his career against the Dallas Cowboys throwing for an average of 277.9 yards with 15 total TDs and 5 INTs.
Croucher: Tampa Bay Buccaneers +2.5
The Dallas pass defense has fallen apart. Over the past 5 weeks the Cowboys’ defense ranks 29th in dropback EPA. The Cowboys made Gardner Minshew look like Patrick Mahomes and then the following week Minshew could do less than nothing against the Saints through the air. Against the Panthers, the Bucs showed they still have the ceiling to exploit and dominate a struggling secondary. Combine the Dallas pass defense with Dak Prescott’s obsession with turnovers lately and how dreadful he looked against the Commanders, and it seems like the wrong team is favored in this game.
Dalzell: Buccaneers +3
Tom Brady and the Bucs get the best draw possible as they take on the Cowboys. Brady’s teams are 7-0 all-time versus Dallas, including a win in Week 1 this season. We have yet to see Tampa Bay peak or play its best ball this year, while Dallas is playing mediocre football right now. Their last three games include a loss to the Commanders last week, a narrow win over Philly and a backup quarterback in Week 16 and an OT loss against Jacksonville the week prior. Nothing would be surprising about the Bucs winning this game outright.
Jackson: Buccaneers ML (+120)
Tom Brady is in the playoffs and there is no one you trust more in the postseason, even at age 45. Taking the Buccaneers outright almost feels like a trap, but it is hard to ignore the Cowboys’ recent struggles. The Bucs’ offense has gotten back on track in recent weeks and they are healthier on both sides of the ball than they have been in weeks.
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