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NFL Picks – Wildcard Weekend 2023

Two AFC teams may start 3rd string quarterbacks and the NFC quarterback field has never been this bleak. It is indeed Super Wildcard Weekend.

You’ll notice I didn’t use “Super” in the title of this post. That’s because I’m not four. The NFL is beyond corny at times. It’s Wildcard Weekend. I’m thankful for the extra game but take your “Super” back.

Last Week:      8 – 7 – 1
2022 Season: 127 – 130 – 12

Saturday, January 14

(7)Seahawks at (2)49ers [4:30PM ET, FOX]
There’s one way Seattle can win this game and that requires a young Seahawks offensive line protecting Geno Smith from Nick Bosa and that 49er pass rush. Sure, maybe Kenneth Walker III gets going and Seattle rides the run game, but that’s unlikely to happen against a San Francisco defense that surrenders only 77 rushing yards per game (2nd in the NFL). No running game means no play action. That means it’ll be up to Smith to take advantage of a subpar secondary. Seattle’s receivers are good enough and the upset is there for the taking, but only if Smith is afforded time to find his open receivers. All of this is based on the assumption that Brock Purdy will not be a stud in his first playoff appearance. Maybe that’s a dumb assumption, but at some point, the rookie has to… you know… play like a rookie? SEAHAWKS +10

(5)Chargers at (4)Jaguars [8:15PM ET, NBC]
Arguably the best matchup of the weekend, but that depends on Trevor Lawrence playing well. Lawrence was not very good in what was essentially a playoff game last week against the Titans. His stats looked okay but he missed open receivers and got lucky on more than a couple dropped interceptions. He won’t have that same margin of error against a top 10 Chargers offense. Here’s where Doug Pederson must help his 2nd year QB. The Chargers are not great against the run. They’re among the bottom five. Travis Etienne Jr. has sputtered for the better part of the last two months after a stellar stretch in late October. Jacksonville needs the run game to help Lawrence and slow down Justin Herbert. I have no idea who wins this and the line is making me choose, so here goes nothing… JAGUARS +2.5

Sunday, January 15 

(7)Dolphins at (2)Bills [1:00PM ET, CBS]
Like I said, two 3rd string quarterbacks may start this weekend. Skylar Thompson is the definite starter Sunday. He hasn’t thrown for more than 166 yards in an NFL game despite having Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle on the outside. I imagine that’s somewhat difficult to do. Even more amazing, the Dolphins are not yet two touchdown dogs. I imagine Damar Hamlin will somehow be in attendance for the game whether in person or virtually. I can’t imagine what an emotional high that Buffalo team will bring to the field. Maybe that backfires in an emotionally draining way, but I don’t think Miami has the firepower for it to impact the game’s outcome. BILLS -13.5

(6)Giants at (3)Vikings [4:30PM ET, FOX]
I wouldn’t necessarily call this the most anticipated game of the weekend, but I think it’s the most balanced. Neither team is exceptional at any one thing. Despite their records, both have negative point differentials. Neither team produces turnovers at an above average rate. The Vikings can certainly throw the football, but their defense is 2nd worst against the pass, something Daniel Jones and the Giants have surprisingly improved at over the season’s final six weeks. I think the greatest advantage the Giants have is Brian Daboll. He’s consistently found ways for his team to improve despite injuries on the offensive side and limited talent on the outside. New York protects the football (2nd in the NFL in giveaways) and I think they’ll be the team playing under less pressure Sunday. Minnesota has dodged landmines all season and has only gotten worse defensively. I think their luck finally runs out. At some point, the Giants pass rush (6th in win rate) will get home and force a Kirk Cousins turnover, and that will ultimately be the difference. GIANTS +3

(6)Ravens at (3)Bengals [8:15PM ET, NBC]
Did the NFL think Lamar Jackson was going to play? The Baltimore offense has been unbearable the last two months without their MVP quarterback. Why would this game land in prime time? Regardless, I think Jackson’s tweet this week was a clear indication that all is not well in Charm City. In fact, the whole thing has a Kawhi Leonard stench to it. I know John Harbaugh talked about how much he loves Lamar, but the quotes from players make it seem like Jackson is already gone next season. In some sense, the disastrous ‘21 season and this season have proven what a great coach Harbaugh is and how maybe the Ravens would be better off not emptying the bank to pay a quarterback who has been unavailable too often. I know letting a franchise level quarterback walk is backward thinking, but paying those guys has gone sideways of late (Russell Wilson, Kyler Murray, Dak Prescott and maybe even Deshaun Watson). BENGALS -9

Monday, January 16 

(5)Cowboys at (4)Buccaneers [8:15PM ET, ESPN]
In Week 18, Sam Darnold went 5/15 for 43 yards and two interceptions and somehow Dak Prescott looked like the worst quarterback in the NFL last week. How do you only complete 14 passes out of 37 attempts in today’s NFL? As an Eagles fan, I loved the news that Mike McCarthy would keep his job regardless of Monday’s outcome. On the other hand, I don’t believe Jerry Jones for a minute. If Dallas gets crushed there’s almost no chance McCarthy is back and Sean Payton isn’t in Dallas a few weeks from now. The Cowboys have been such a roller coaster the last few weeks that picking Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay defense seems like the correct pick. However, Brady can’t move in the pocket anymore and the Bucs don’t run the football very well. I think Dallas’ pass rush will determine this game and with how bad the Tampa offensive line is, I can’t pick the Bucs and feel good about it. COWBOYS -2.5

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