N.F.L. Playoff Predictions: Our Picks in the Wild-Card Round

Here comes the first Monday night wild-card game, as well as two teams meeting for the third time this season, to start the playoffs.

Parity should be on display this weekend, with the Patriots v. Bills III game on Saturday night and Monday’s third game between the N.F.C. West rivals, the Cardinals vs. Rams game on Monday. There will also be a rematch between the Raiders and Bengals, as well as a game between the Cowboys and the 49ers, two of the NFL’s most famous teams. Las Vegas and San Francisco both needed overtime to get into the playoffs.

This weekend, tho, the sudden-death overtime rules of the NFL will come into play: Until someone scores, there will be no question about whether to kneel or not, because the games will go on until someone does.

There aren’t many stories in the playoffs this year that are as interesting as the Raiders (10-7), a team that was once thought to be out of the playoffs until it won four straight one-score games to get a wild-card spot. They face a Bengals (10-7) offense that has thrived under Joe Burrow. Burrow has thrown for over 300 yards in three of his last four starts, and he’s on a roll right now.

Burrow could take advantage of the Raiders’ secondary, which is the most vulnerable part of Las Vegas’s defense. The Raiders have allowed more than 300 passing yards four times this season, and Burrow could take advantage of that. Pro Bowl defensive end Maxx Crosby and other linemen can put pressure on a Bengals front that has given up 55 sacks, which is why they can win. They also have Joe Mixon, who finished third in the league in rushing yards (1,205). Mixon could be a great receiver on check-down routes against the Raiders’ zone-based defense, where he could get open in the middle of the field. As of Week 11, there is little reason to think that Cincinnati will not beat Las Vegas again. The Bengals are going to lose by 5.5 points to the Vikings.

Head Coach Andy Reid thinks Tyreek Hill (heel), Darrel Williams (toe), and Clyde Edwards-Helaire (shoulder) will all play in the game. Nobody is saying that the Steelers are more than a bump on the road. Kansas City didn’t do well in its season-ending win against the Broncos. You should choose Kansas City as your favorite.

The Cardinals were the best team in the NFL thru October, but they’ve lost four of their last five games and have lost home-field advantage. They now have to travel to face the Rams, who are in their division (12-5). If J.J. Watt, who came back to practice this week after a three-month break, is available, Arizona could get some much-needed help. His future is still up in the air, tho. It won’t be possible for DeAndre Hopkins, who has been out with a knee injury since Week 14, to play.

There were 17 interceptions by Matthew Stafford this season, which was tied for the league lead. As the playoffs go on, his decision-making will be looked at very closely because of the draft capital General Manager Les Snead gave up for him. When he plays them in the first round, he can be sure that the Cardinals’ mistakes will hurt more. Arizona has been penalized at least six times in each of the last five games, and the team has fumbled an awful 17 center-quarterback snaps this season.

People who aren’t used to betting lines: This is just a quick guide for them: If the favorite wins by more than the spread, they are shown next to a negative number that shows how many points they need to win to do so. To put it another way, if the Raiders are at-5.5, that means that Las Vegas has to beat Chicago by at least 6 points for its backers to win their bet. As a bonus, gamblers can also bet on the game’s total score, which is how many points each team scored together in the game.


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