Super Wild Card Weekend NFL game picks: Chargers defeat Jaguars; Cowboys oust Tom Brady’s Bucs

Published: Jan 12, 2023 at 01:25 PM

The lines provided by Caesars Sportsbook are current as of 1:15 p.m. ET on Thursday, Jan. 12 unless otherwise noted below.

SATURDAY, JAN. 14

Seattle Seahawks

The 49ers beat the Seahawks by a combined score of 48-20 this season and both games felt more lopsided than the scores showed. The loss of Seahawks linebacker Jordyn Brooks only exacerbates the Seahawks’ struggle to cover the middle of the field, and the 49ers’ weapons are the healthiest they’ve been all season with Deebo Samuel and Elijah Mitchell ready. Watch out for the screen game. 

The only advantage the Seahawks have here is at quarterback, and Geno Smith won’t have enough time to get the ball down the field against the 49ers’ pass rush. As much as I’ve enjoyed Pete Carroll coaching his heart out this year, this game would be much better with the Lions involved.

Jacksonville Jaguars

I take more away from the Jaguars’ Week 18 adventure than the Chargers’ letdown against the Broncos. With the playoffs on the line, needing a comeback, the Jaguars offense recorded exactly one first down in its final five drives before the improving Jags defense won the game. Travis Etienne will be more productive this week, but the Chargers defense is healthier than it’s been all year and built to slow down the pass. I believe in Brandon Staley’s game-planning. 

Mike Williams is trending toward playing and his status looms large. I trust where Justin Herbert is at his stage of development more than Trevor Lawrence, and Herbert should have the easier matchup overall. 

SUNDAY, JAN. 15

Miami Dolphins
  • WHERE: Highmark Stadium (Orchard Park, N.Y.)
  • WHEN: 1 p.m. ET | CBS, Paramount+
  • MONEYLINE: Bills: -800 | Dolphins: +550
  • SPREAD: Bills -13 | O/U: 43.5

The Dolphins limped to the finish line. If Teddy Bridgewater was starting this game, much less Tua Tagovailoa, I’d give the Dolphins a chance to attack Buffalo’s weaknesses in the secondary. If Skylar Thompson starts this game, take a touchdown away from Miami. The familiarity here could also help Miami, a division matchup in which it already played the Bills even twice. 

The Dolphins have enough pass rushers up front (Christian Wilkins, Bradley Chubb, Jaelan Phillips) to bother Josh Allen, although consider it a bad sign he was back to World’s Destroyer Mode last week against the Patriots. Keep an eye on the injury report here beyond quarterback. Left tackle Terron Armstead‘s status remains uncertain, and Xavien Howard didn’t look 100 percent last week after missing Week 17 with a knee injury

Minnesota Vikings

Kirk Cousins gets hit more than any quarterback in football. That was the case during the Vikings’ tight win over the Giants just three weeks ago and will be the case again with the Vikings on Sunday without right tackle Brian O’Neill. All season, the Giants made due with scheme over talent. But with Dexter Lawrence dominating alongside Leonard Williams, Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari, defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale can get truly wild with his blitzes and stunts. They are healthy and peaking at the right time. When the Vikings have the ball, the coaching matchup should be a fascinating back-and-forth. When the Giants have the ball, give Brian Daboll the edge.

I’ve been picking against the Giants all year as they searched for the right mix of players and cohesion. They finally found it in December. This receiver group is good enough. The Vikings played more man coverage and blitzed more late in the season, but they are ultimately a passive defense that struggles against RPOs. I hate picking the trendy upset of the week, but the Giants wanted this matchup for a reason. It will be cruel when Minnesota’s first one-score loss of the season comes when it matters most. 

Baltimore Ravens

This Ravens defense is built to stop the Bengals. They are rangy, athletic and versatile on the outside, the rare team that can slow down the Bengals’ weapons. It happened a week ago, and the right side of the Bengals’ offensive line isn’t going to give Joe Burrow the time he needs. Baltimore stops the run so well the Bengals will become one-dimensional. Burrow will still make plays, but this will be the toughest defense Cincinnati faces in the AFC. 

Luckily for the Bengals, 20 points should be enough to win. It’s concerning that the Ravens were able to run the ball well at times last week even with so many starters out. The Ravens will try to slow down the pace and limit possessions because they know they are an inferior team, assuming Tyler Huntley starts at quarterback. If Anthony Brown is in, take four more points away from the Ravens. The familiarity of the two sides is an equalizer and would be on upset watch if Lamar Jackson was right, but there’s not much reason to believe that will be the case.  

MONDAY, JAN. 16

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

This game is about the Cowboys. They are the up-and-down team that has shown a top-five scoring offense and defense, rarely at the same time. The Bucs have shown neither, a remarkably consistent defense that makes the opposition work and a Tom Brady offense that relies on short passing and converting on third-and-3. They haven’t played well for more than a quarter at a time all season; why start now? 

I’m not worried about Dak Prescott‘s meltdown in Week 18 and the Cowboys’ odd effort in that game. I am worried about the Cowboys defense springing leaks at cornerback, linebacker and defensive tackle. Will Dan Quinn be confident enough in his personnel to mix up the Cowboys’ looks snap-to-snap? Will Brady give Micah Parsons a chance to get the passer? I’m taking the Cowboys because their average game is better than the Bucs’, but there’s also only one team here with championship experience. I don’t feel good about picking either team.

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