Here we go – the NFC Wild Card Round! Let’s get straight to the picks.
49ers -9.5 over Seahawks
It may be tough to defeat a team three times in one season, but the 49ers are more than capable of ending the Seahawks’ playoff hopes early. Since Brock Purdy took over the starting job, the 49ers have been a covering machine, failing to cover in only one contest (an overtime victory against the Raiders). San Francisco remains unbeaten in all of Purdy’s starts which is one of the reasons why I am picking the Niners to go all the way to the Super Bowl. Besides Purdy, the San Francisco offense is stacked with playmakers, including Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, and Brandon Aiyuk. Additionally, the Niners’ defense ranks at the top of the league, allowing the least amount of points and yards allowed per game.
Seattle, on the other hand, has taken a nosedive since their early season success. After a 6-3 start, the Seahawks struggled ever since their Germany matchup against the Bucs, going 3-5 to end the season. Two of their three wins in that span came courtesy of a flailing Rams team with John Wolford and Baker Mayfield while the other was against an injured Mike White and an unmotivated Jets squad.
For the Seahawks to have any chance of pulling off the upset, they will have to establish the run game behind Kenneth Walker. Considering the Niners’ defense is stout against the run, that may be a tall task. As a result, the more Geno Smith is called upon the throw the more mistakes he is prone to make.
It’s a high number, but until the Niners prove otherwise, I am going to continue to back them. Even though Pete Carroll is a Super Bowl-winning coach, Kyle Shanahan has been to a Super Bowl as well and two of the last three NFC Championship games. I’m riding the 49ers here. San Francisco wins and cover.
Giants +3 over Vikings
Yes, this is my team, but bias aside, I love the Giants to pull off the upset here. When these two teams met on Christmas Eve, Minnesota needed a 61-yard field goal to win the game. Kirk Cousins was lucky he didn’t have at least two interceptions and had Daniel Bellinger not fumbled on a drive close to the red zone and if Richie James had not dropped an easy catch on third down in Vikings territory we would be having a different conversation.
In the past few weeks, Daniel Jones has finally emerged as the confident and cool QB he was drafted to be. His biggest weapon of all is his ability to use both his arms and legs to pick up a first down. Add Saquon Barkley to the mix and the Giants offense can move the chains and create long drives.
If you read my weekly top picks column, I consistently write how the Vikings are the most overrated and luckiest team in the league. Their six-point score differential is the lowest among all division leaders. In Round two, I’m backing Brian Daboll and my Giants to fix their mistakes and be the sole NFC Wild Card team to advance to the Divisional Round. Giants pull off the upset.
Bucs +2.5 over Cowboys
Here is another one of my upset picks of the week. Playoff Tom Brady is different from regular season Tom Brady. Erase any doubt the Bucs gave you with their subpar season. Now that it is the playoffs it is a whole different ball game. For one, the Bucs are healthier now than at any point of the season, especially the offensive line. If Brady is gifted enough time in the pocket, then he will be able to make the deep throws to Chris Godwin and Mike Evans. The bucs defense, too, should be able to feast on the Cowboys offense, especially Dak Prescott. Even though he missed four games this season, Prescott leads the league in interceptions. That doesn’t bode well for this matchup against a defense that ranks 10th in the league against the pass.
I’ll have more about this matchup on Monday, but take the Bucs to upset and cover.