Wild Card Weekend Predictions
By: Grant Poarch
I can’t believe it’s playoff time already. The regular season flew by and this year’s playoff might be the best one in years. With these matchups in the Wild Card round, I will be sure to put myself in front of a TV so I can take in the madness that is bound to ensue. From the potential for another Joe Flacco playoff run to a Matt Stafford homecoming in Detroit, these games are going to be must watch television. With that said, there is money to be made on the weekend. As the regular season ended last week, I went 9-7 on both the money line and spread. That brings my overall record on the season to 167-105 on the money line and 144-129 on the spread. This week will be tricky but I’m up for the challenge. With that said, fade me at your own risk and tail me at your inevitable benefit. The odds listed are provided by DraftKings.
1/13 (Saturday Afternoon Game): Cleveland Browns (-2) @ Houston Texans, O/U 44.5, 4:30PM EST, NBC
Will it be playoff Joe or potential rookie of the year C.J. Stroud coming out on top in this one? Many people say that Cleveland is the biggest threat to Baltimore and I believe that to be for good reason. The Browns have looked incredible due to the combination of their great defense and Joe Flacco showing signs of his much younger self.
In this one, I see experience playing a major factor. The moment won’t phase Cleveland at all as good defense travels and their offense is full of veterans. They should be able to run the ball well, too, as they face a Houston defense that just allowed Jonathan Taylor to rush for nearly 200 yards in a game they had to win to get into the playoffs.
On the other side of the ball, the Cleveland defense will be challenged when they face C.J. Stroud. He has been incredible this year but I’m not sure how he will do against a defense of the quality of the Browns.
This should be an interesting game with a difference in style between the two teams. However, a good defense and rushing attack always translate to success. Look for Jerome Ford to have a big day and lead Cleveland into the Divisional Round.
Prediction: Cleveland wins, Cleveland covers -2
1/13 (Saturday Night Game): Miami Dolphins @ Kansas City Chiefs (-4.5, O/U 44), 8:00PM EST, Peacock
Normally, I would think this is a slam dunk for the Chiefs. They are playing at home in extremely cold temperatures against a team from Florida. On top of that, the Dolphins backed into the playoffs on a semi-cold streak and they have injuries all over the field.
When these two teams matched up in the middle of the regular season, Kansas City came out on top 21-14. I see a similar amount of points being scored in this one as the Chiefs have struggled all year and Tua is bound to choke under the pressure of a road playoff game.
Even though Kansas City hasn’t looked like themselves all year long, look for them to win this one. They still have Patrick Mahomes and if things go wrong the zebras will likely be on their side as well. All Kansas City has to do is make sure they don’t let Tyreek Hill go for 200 yards and they should be good to go.
I don’t feel great about laying points on the Chiefs but I’m confident that history will repeat itself in this one. Give me Kansas City in an ugly win.
Prediction: Kansas City wins, Kansas City covers -4.5
1/14: Green Bay Packers @ Dallas Cowboys (-7, O/U 50.5), 4:30PM EST, FOX
Cowboy fans everywhere are sweating about this matchup. They are clearly the better team and have been elite at home all year long. However, something seems to be wrong for Dallas when they play Green Bay in the playoffs. From the “no catch” to the Jared Cook sliding catch, the Packers have had the Cowboys’ number in the postseason as of late.
The way I see it, that won’t matter here. The Dallas’ defense is going to be able to put pressure on Jordan Love early and often. He will struggle big time as he has no playoff experience. To make things worse, starting your playoff career on the road makes things much more difficult.
Dallas hasn’t lost a home game all year long and I don’t see that trend reversing here. I know it seems crazy to have faith in the Cowboys in the playoffs but I’m going to do that here.
Prediction: Dallas wins, Dallas covers -7
1/14 (SNF): Los Angeles Rams @ Detroit Lions (-3, O/U 51.5), 8:00PM EST, NBC
This might just be the most interesting game of the weekend. The starting quarterbacks were traded for each other back in 2021. At the time, both quarterbacks had spent their entire career with the franchise that drafted them. I can’t wait to watch the first home playoff game in Detroit since the 1993 season. It is simply poetic that it comes against Matt Stafford and I believe you would be doing yourself a disservice to not watch this game if you consider yourself a football fan.
As for the game, I’ve gone back and forth about who is going to win. Ford Field is going to be absolutely electric. That being said, there’s no one better suited to handle that than Matt Stafford. Not only does he have the advantage of going against the Lions but he also has a team with a ton of playoff experience around him. As cliche as that sounds, those things matter this time of year.
The football gods might hate me for this but I’m rolling with the Rams. Yes, this ould be absolutely heartbreaking for Detroit. I don’t want that to happen. However, the Rams are scorching hot as they have won seven out of their last eight games with the lone loss coming in overtime to the Ravens. Their passing attack will be a problem to deal with and that is something Detroit has struggled with this year.
Do the Lions have what it takes to win this game? They absolutely do. Do I want them to win? Yes I do. However, I sense heartbreak incoming as that is what happens in the playoffs. Also, I haven’t picked any underdogs yet so I figured I’d do so here.
Prediction: Los Angeles wins, Los Angeles covers +3
1/15 (Monday Afternoon Game): Pittsburgh Steelers @ Buffalo Bills (-9.5, O/U 36), 4:30PM EST, CBS
It seems like Pittsburgh has everything stacked against them in this one. They will be without T.J. Watt and they face a Buffalo team that has been one of the scariest in the NFL toward the end of the season.
While Pittsburgh’s defense is tough regardless of the situation, will they really have enough to slow down Josh Allen? As long as he doesn’t turn the ball over multiple times this game, I’m not sure the Pittsburgh offense will have what it takes to keep up.
As for my prediction, I’m rolling with the hot hand at home. Josh Allen has something to prove in these playoffs and I think that will start with a big win over the Steelers. Pittsburgh is going to start Mason Rudolph once again. If someone told me at the beginning of the season that Mason Rudolph would be starting in the playoffs, I would tell them to stop getting high so often. No matter, here we are. I don’t see any way Mason Rudolph outduels Josh Allen in Buffalo.
Prediction: Buffalo wins, Buffalo covers -9.5
1/15 (MNF): Philadelphia Eagles (-3) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers, O/U 44, 8:15PM EST, ESPN/ABC
I don’t think there is a single team in these playoffs that is more cold than the Eagles. Their collapse at the end of the year has been unbelievable to watch. To make things worse, Jalen Hurts had to exit the game a week ago with a dislocated right middle finger. That injury may well give Philadelphia the finger as they exit the playoffs.
Let me say first that I want the Eagles to win this game. However, I have little faith in them right now. Their defense has been awful as of late and I’m not too sure about what is going on with the offense. Both of those things combined with the Hurts’ injury makes it hard to pick the Eagles.
On the other side, Tampa Bay has issues of their own. Baker Mayfield was clearly banged up in the game last week as he was dealing with a rib injury from the week before. During the game a week ago, he limped off the field several times. On top of that, in a game the Buccaneers absolutely had to win over the league-worst Panthers, Tampa Bay was unable to score a touchdown.
With all that said, this game is weak on weak when it comes to Tampa Bay possessing the ball. When Philadelphia has the ball, it is strength on strength. Either way I go here, I don’t have a lot of faith. According to rotowire.com, Hurts practiced in a limited capacity on Thursday. They also mentioned that Hurts will be wearing a glove during the game on his throwing hand. With everything on the table, I can’t bring myself to pick the Eagles. They are too banged up and are weak defensively. As much as I would love to be wrong here, I’m not positive I will be.
Prediction: Tampa Bay wins, Tampa Bay covers +3