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January 12, 2023

NFL wildcard round picks

Eagles NFL
011223KirkCousins Matt Krohn/USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings and Giants played three weeks ago.

For the gambling degenerates, here are my NFL wildcard round picks. To note, the team logos indicate who I think will win the game, not cover the spread. At the end of the picks, I'll note a few teams that I like based on the spread.


Seahawks at 49ers (-9.5): It looks like we might get a fun bad weather game in Santa Clara on Saturday. From


If you're a Niners fan you can find positives and negatives in a bad weather matchup:

• The positives: The Niners are a run first team, with one of the best defenses in the NFL. An ugly, rainy, windy environment suits them. It does not suit the more pass-heavy Seahawks.

• The negatives: The Niners have a 10-game winning streak. They have scored 30 or more points in seven games during that streak, and have also won seven of the those games by at least two scores. They would probably just prefer normal conditions because they're hot. Any added elements could be viewed as something of an equalizer for a lesser team like the Seahawks. It's also perhaps worth noting that the 49ers lost to the Bears in a rainy, windy game way back in September, though those conditions were far more severe.

The Niners dominated the Seahawks in both of their matchups this season, and I expect they'll go for the trifecta on Saturday.


Chargers (-2.5) at Jaguars: The Jaguars closed the regular season with five straight wins, and won the AFC South in Doug Pederson's first year in Jacksonville. Their turnaround from picking No. 1 in the draft the last two years to earning a home game in the playoffs has been impressive. Trevor Lawrence took a major step forward in 2022, and he very clearly has talent, but he also makes more than his share of unforced errors. This is a team on the rise, but probably not yet legitimate Super Bowl contenders.

The Chargers closed the regular season strongly as well, winning four straight (mostly against trash teams) before losing a meaningless Week 18 game against the Broncos in Denver. In that game against the Broncos, the Chargers were locked into the 5 seed, and Brandon Staley decided to play his starters for some insane reason. Sure enough, WR Mike Williams suffered a back injury and was carted off.

Pederson and Staley are both gamblers. Pederson's aggressiveness throughout the 2017 season changed the way the NFL approaches fourth down decisions. Staley has almost taken a reliance on analytics to the next level, perhaps even too far, and even had an injured Keenan Allen questioning him on Twitter during a game. The Chargers have an edge at quarterback with Justin Herbert over Lawrence, but (a) I trust Pederson more than Staley, and (b) Jaguars fans were legitimately loud in their AFC South-clinching win over the Titans, and I believe they will be a factor again on Saturday night.


Dolphins at Bills (-13.5): The Dolphins lost five straight games before closing the season with an ugly playoff-clinching 11-6 win over the Jets. Tua Tagovailoa is out with his third concussion of the season, and backup Teddy Bridgewater is still trying to recover from a dislocated pinky finger. The Dolphins will likely start rookie Skylar Thompson. This is the worst team in the playoffs, and I suspect that they'll get smoked by the Bills. This will be the "Can we please just get to the other games" game this weekend.


Giants at Vikings (-3): The Vikings have the better quarterback, offensive line, edge rushers, and they employ the best wide receiver in the NFL. That should usually be enough to make them a slam dunk pick, but their wins are usually razor thin, and their losses are ugly blowouts. There's a reason that this line is only three points against the overachieving Giants.

The Vikings and Giants played in Minnesota three weeks ago, the Vikings won by three on a 61-yard game-winning field goal. I expect another close game. Give me the Vikings to win, but I'll take the three points.


Ravens at Bengals (-8.5): Who exactly will start at quarterback for the Ravens remains a mystery, as Lamar Jackson still has not yet practiced since injuring his knee in early December. Backup Tyler Huntley might not be available either, as he did not throw at all during the media-attended portion of Baltimore's practice, per Jamison Hensley of ESPN. If neither Jackson nor Huntley can go, it'll be undrafted rookie Anthony Brown.

I don't think it matters who starts for the Ravens, a boring team that has failed to score 20 points in any of their last six games, going up an impressive Bengals team that has won eight straight games.

If the Bengals beat the Ravens and the Bills beat the Dolphins, those two teams will face off in the divisional round. I think we need to see that.


Cowboys (-2.5) at Buccaneers: Tom Brady has 35 career playoff wins. The regular starting quarterbacks (injured or not) for the 13 other teams in the playoffs have a combined 17 career playoff wins, and eight of them are owned by Patrick Mahomes. During the span in which Brady won his 35 playoff games, the Cowboys as a team have won three playoff games. Brady is also 7-0 in his career against the Cowboys, including a one-sided 19-3 victory Week 1, in which the Dallas offense looked completely inept. 

Remember back in Week 6, when the Cowboys were being asked about Jalen Hurts' strong start to the season in advance of their matchup against the Eagles, and DeMarcus Lawrence played the "he hasn't played us yet" game?

The Eagles' offense proceeded to do whatever they wanted to the Dallas defense before they took their foot off the gas after Lane Johnson got hurt. Well, guess what? They're doing some version of that nonsense bluster again.

The obvious rebuttal here is that as noted above, Brady beat them four months ago, but I think it's funnier that in 2023 the Cowboys are 0-1, and got smoked by a dead in the water Commanders team starting Sam Howell.

Can the Bucs win this game? Sure! The Cowboys are 1-4 on grass, we see them choke in the playoffs every year, and Todd Bowles seemed to have Dak Prescott's number way back in September. It should also be pointed out that in addition to their bad Week 18 loss in Washington, the Cowboys also didn't look so good Week 17 against a Titans team that was resting all their good players.

Ultimately, however, while Brady is the 🐐 and must be respected, the Bucs are just way too one-dimensional to survive in the playoffs. The Bucs' team rushing stats this season:

Bucs rushing offense Stat NFL rank 
Rushing attempts 386 Dead last 
Rushing yards 1308 Dead last 
Yards per rushing attempt 3.4 Dead last 
Rushing TDs Dead last 
Rushes of 20+ yards Dead last 
Rushes of 40+ yards Tied for dead last 
Rushing first downs 79 Tied for dead last 

The Cowboys are simply the better team, even if they didn't close the season in impressive fashion.

• Picks against the spread: Jaguars (+2.5), Giants (+3), Cowboys (-2.5).

• Eagles picks: 13-4

• 2022 season, straight up: 167-103-2 (0.618)
• 2022 season, ATS: 45-48 (0.484) 😨
• 2021 season, straight up: 179-105-1 (0.630)
• 2021 season, ATS: 46-40-1 (0.534)
• 2020 season, straight up: 169-81-1 (0.675)
• 2020 season, ATS: 45-37-3 (0.547)
• 2019 season, straight up: 160-107-1 (0.601)
• 2019 season, ATS: 42-35-3 (0.544)
• 2018 season, straight up: 173-94-2 (0.647)
• 2018 season, ATS: 41-36-2 (0.532)
• 2017 season, straight up: 181-86 (0.678)
• 2017 season, ATS: 36-32-2 (0.529)
• 2016 season, straight up: 171-94-2 (0.644)
• 2016 season, ATS:  41-34 (0.547)
• 2015 season, straight up: 163-93 (0.637)
• 2015 season, ATS: 46-30-2 (0.605)

• Last 8 years, ATS: 340-289-13 (0.540)

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