It’s finally playoff time.
Saturday will kick off the start of what will be a six game slate during NFL Wild Card Weekend and the first round of the NFL Playoffs. Up first? The Seattle Seahawks (+9.5), who will travel to northern California to face off with their arch rival, the San Francisco 49ers (-9.5), who Seattle is 0-2 against this season in spite of Pete Carroll’s positive track record of success against Kyle Shanahan. The 49ers are sitting as two score favorites at 9.5 per DraftKings Sportsbook.
The 49ers overpowered the Seahawks 27-7 in Week 2 of the NFL season at Levi’s Stadium and then escaped Seattle with a 21-13 win in Week 15, although it was a game mostly controlled by the 49ers throughout the contest despite missing star wideout Deebo Samuel. The Niners, despite being down to their third string QB Brock Purdy, are undefeated with him under center and have one of the most talented rosters in the NFL. It will be a tough test for the Seahawks, and it is unlikely many will pick them to emerge victorious, but it is also difficult to beat a team three times in one season.
The pick: 49ers win and cover the spread, under 42 points scored
It appears national media is all-in on San Francisco. Every NFL Network pundit went with the 49ers, as did everyone on The Athletic.
The other game taking place in the Saturday slate is the Los Angeles Chargers (-2.5) traveling to Jacksonville to face off with the Jaguars (+2.5). The Chargers are 2.5 point favorites, and have won four of their last five games. They look like a much different team since they got trampled 38-10 by Jacksonville in Week 3.
The pick: Chargers win and cover the spread, over 47.5 points scored
Sunday’s first game will be the Miami Dolphins (+13.5) who are in the dance for the first time since the 2016 season, and the Buffalo Bills (-13.5) who look to avenge their heartbreaking playoff exit from a season ago. The Dolphins, who barely snuck into the postseason, are starting third string QB Skylar Thompson, hence being heavy underdogs.
The pick: Bills win, Dolphins cover the spread, over 43.5 points scored
Following that matchup is the New York Giants (+3) and the Minnesota Vikings (-3). The Vikings are favored by three, but you know the story of their season by now. A negative point differential for the year, winning all but two games by one possession. Can this sustain into the postseason for Minnesota? The Giants had an uninspiring 2-4-1 record in their final seven games to end the regular season and are not exactly firing on all cylinders these days either. This is expected to be one of the better games all weekend.
The pick: Vikings win, Giants cover the spread, under 48 points scored
The Sunday night game features the Baltimore Ravens (+9.5) and the Cincinnati Bengals (-9.5). The Bengals are listed as nine point favorites at home and the main factor in that is the Ravens preparing to take the field without quarterback Lamar Jackson, who is still recovering from a PCL injury. The Bengals, much like last year, are playing their best football at the right time and will be a tough out for any opposing team as Joe Burrow continues to cement himself as one of the best quarterbacks in football.
The pick: Bengals win, Ravens cover the spread, under 40.5 points scored
The final game of the first round will be held on Monday night as the Dallas Cowboys (-2.5) host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+2.5). Tampa benefitted from playing in arguably the weakest division in football this year and won the NFC South with a record of 8-9. However, the Cowboys, despite being the far better team on paper, always struggle against Tom Brady, and despite a down season for the Buccaneers, people clearly do not want to bet against the greatest quarterback to ever play, especially in the postseason when he often shines the brightest.
The pick: Cowboys win and cover the spread, over 45.5 points scored
Here’s to a great weekend of playoff games! And here is the Field Gulls staff’s picks and predictions: