2022 NFC Wild Card Weekend Playoff Picks

The 2021-2022 NFL regular season is over. 14 teams in two conferences (seven in each) have a shot at winning the Vince Lombardi championship trophy. The new playoff format features an extra team, one bye week for the top seeded team in each conference, and a Monday night playoff game. Everyone wants to know which three teams in the NFC advance to the divisional round, so here are the best bets come Sunday.

#7 Philadelphia Eagles v. #2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The first conference playoff game on Sunday, this matchup shouldn’t be overlooked. Philadelphia started the season at 2-5, but won seven of their last ten. The incumbent champion Buccaneers have been injury and drama plagued all season.

Tampa’s list of injuries helps the Eagles keep this game close. No Lavonte David ensures Philadelphia will run the ball until the Buccaneers stop it or trail late. No Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown or Leonard Fournette might be a problem if the score is close. Regardless, Tom Brady excels in the playoffs…even if his weakness is playing another NFC East opponent.

Prediction: Buccaneers win 30-28

#6 San Francisco 49ers v. #3 Dallas Cowboys

One of if not the best playoff rivalry returns Sunday afternoon. Both teams have great defenses, strong running games and better offensive lines. San Francisco Dallas could be the best game of wildcard weekend, highlighted by coaches who have turned their teams around.

One of the quiet success stories this season has been San Francisco’s offensive line play. Despite playing multiple games with backups at both guard positions, the 49ers have shut down blitzes from some of the best teams in the NFL, including their division rival Rams twice.

Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has been the right hire. He’s fixed an atrocious secondary and brought the best out of Dallas’ young linebacking core. Micah Parsons is in the defensive rookie and defensive player of the year conversations. DeMarcus Lawrence has improved on the right end and Trevon Diggs is a turnover machine. Despite the success, Dallas hasn’t played up to their competition at times and faces a head coach in Kyle Shanahan who’s gone through lows and turned things around.

One of the best gems pointed out this week by 49er fan Nick Gamulo was Dallas’ defense under Dan Quinn playing more of a cover three. San Francisco starting quarterback Jimmy Garappolo succeeds when playing against this type of defense, completing 73% of his passes. Dallas’ front seven is ranked 24th against the run, while 49er runningback Elijah Mitchell averages almost five yards a carry. Watch for both of these to play a pivotal role.

San Francisco’s use of receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk factor into how the Cowboys defense defends at the line of scrimmage. Expect Shanahan to take advantage of weaknesses Diggs has in one on one coverage and run up the middle versus a weaker defensive front.

Upset prediction of the week: 49ers win 30-20

#5 Arizona Cardinals v. #4 Los Angeles Rams

The first Monday night playoff game to be played this century, part three of Cardinals Rams should end wildcard weekend with style. Both franchises split in the regular season, winning their games on the road. Both teams are in different directions; Arizona faltering after 10-1 start, and Los Angeles rising at the best time despite a loss Sunday to San Francisco.

Matthew Stafford’s favorite target, Cooper Kupp was shy of Calvin Johnson’s all-time receiving record by less than 20 yards. He’ll be a focus of defenses this postseason.

Both teams get critical players back. J.J. Watt returns for Arizona’s front seven. The Cardinal pass rush hasn’t been the same since Watt was injured, gradually becoming a non-factor. The Rams get runningback Cam Akers back at full health. This helps take pressure off quarterback Matthew Stafford and not having an unbalanced passing attack every time coach Sean McVay’s offense goes on the field.

The deciding factor is Sean McVay’s record v. Arizona and head coach Kliff Kingsbury overall. McVay lost his first game to the Cardinals this season, beating them every time before and since. Arizona can improve in the offseason knowing they’re a better team that just needed the playoff experience.

Prediction: Rams win 27-17

Week 18 Picks: 9-7

Season record: 163-109

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s