The NFL playoffs are here, and everyone is excited for Super Wild Card Weekend. We have some intriguing matchups early here in the postseason, as we have Round 3 divisional games between the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams and Arizona Cardinals. We also get a playoff matchup that has history, as the Dallas Cowboys play host to the San Francisco 49ers. The winner of a Cowboys vs. 49ers matchup in the playoffs has gone on to win the Super Bowl five out of seven times!
I'm going to give you a stat to keep in mind for this weekend. It's not something that you should completely operate off of, but it's noteworthy. In the last 24 NFL playoff games, the teams that won covered in 21 of them. That comes courtesy of SportsLine's Allan Bell. So if you're picking a bunch of underdogs to cover the spread yet lose, you might want to reconsider.
Let's jump into some ATS playoff picks. Credit to the CBS Sports research team for providing the information found in this column.
2021 Top five picks record: 45-45
2021 Overall ATS record: 132-139-1
2021 Straight up record: 171-100-1
(5) Las Vegas Raiders at (4) Cincinnati Bengals
Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET (NBC)
The Raiders-Chargers Sunday night regular-season finale may go down as the best ever. A ridiculous fourth-quarter comeback, a questionable timeout taken and then a game-winning field goal in overtime to send the Raiders to the playoffs. The run interim coach Rich Bisaccia has had with this team after all the adversity it has been forced to weather is astounding.
These two teams actually played a couple months ago, as the Bengals coasted to a 32-13 victory. Joe Mixon rushed 30 times for 123 yards and two touchdowns while Joe Burrow had season-lows in passing yards (148) and yards per attempt (5.1). Containing the Bengals' offense -- especially that passing attack -- will be important for the Raiders, but so will offensive efficiency. Over the Raiders' four-game winning streak, there's been a commitment to the run game. Josh Jacobs is averaging 21 carries per game since Week 15, and recorded a career-high 132 rushing yards last week.
The Raiders are a different team now compared to who they were on Nov. 21. Vegas has won four straight games, and I imagine this one could be close. I'll take the Raiders to cover, and I think there's a chance they could upset the Bengals.
The pick: Raiders +5
Projected score: Raiders 24-23
(6) New England Patriots at (3) Buffalo Bills
Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET (CBS, Paramount+)
The Bills did get their revenge on the Patriots in Foxborough, but I can tell you that wasn't enough. That defense remembers being asked if it felt embarrassed after Mac Jones attempted just three passes in its first 14-10 loss. Buffalo won 33-21 in New England the day after Christmas, but this tiebreaker is for all the marbles.
While this game is going to be just as cold as their first meeting, the wind isn't expected to dominate the matchup. That means Josh Allen can do more through the air. Jones on the other hand has completed 16 passes in two games vs. the Bills with zero touchdowns and two interceptions. Add on that the Bills have home-field advantage, and I'm taking the Bills to advance and cover.
The pick: Bills -4
Projected score: Bills 24-17
(7) Philadelphia Eagles at (2) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (Fox)
The 28-22 final score of the Buccaneers and Eagles' first meeting earlier this year did not feel accurate, as the game didn't feel very close at all. With that being said, I think Philly can cover this large spread.
It's true that the Eagles did not beat a playoff team this year and feasted on lesser clubs, but they have the No. 1 rushing offense with 159.7 ground yards averaged per game, and the weather is supposed to be gross due to rain and wind. I'm not going to bet on Tom Brady to lose at home in the first round, but I feel like the point spread is a bit inflated. The Over/Under of 46 could be a bit high too. Continue to monitor the weather.
The pick: Eagles +8.5
Projected score: Buccaneers 24-21
(6) San Francisco 49ers at (3) Dallas Cowboys
Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET (CBS/Nickelodeon, Paramount+)
Are the Cowboys a legitimate contender or not? They finished 6-0 against their terrible division and 6-5 against everyone else! Dak Prescott and this offense are capable of lighting up the scoreboard, but the 49ers know how to both control time of possession, and be creative on offense.
The 49ers are known for their ground game. Whether it's Elijah Mitchell, Deebo Samuel or JaMycal Hasty toting the rock, the No. 7 run offense in the league knows how to assert its dominance. Still, something really stuck out to me in their win over the Rams last week. Jimmy Garoppolo had a solid outing, and it was because of how talented his wideouts are. Samuel racked up 140 total yards and a touchdown. He also threw a touchdown to Jauan Jennings, who caught six passes for 94 yards and two scores. Brandon Aiyuk then made several big plays as well, as he caught six passes for 107 yards.
I'm leaning to the upset here. This 49ers team can compete with anyone, and if it has a legitimate passing attack, watch out.
The pick: 49ers +3
Projected score: 49ers 30-27
(7) Pittsburgh Steelers at (2) Kansas City Chiefs
Sunday, 8:15 p.m. ET (NBC)
So the Chiefs are winning this game. Glad we all can agree there. Now, it's about the point spread. I don't like laying double-digits with the Chiefs. I tried that last week while Kansas City played a backup quarterback and it didn't work out. Ben Roethlisberger is not the same QB he once was, but he's incredibly motivated to go out with an impressive performance, and this whole team is going to have his back as well. Truthfully, this game is not something I will be placing money on, and I know I talked about being wary of betting on underdogs to cover not win, but the lean is for Pittsburgh to cover 13 points.
The pick: Steelers +12.5
Projected score: Chiefs 28-17
(5) Arizona Cardinals at (4) Los Angeles Rams
Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET (ESPN)
The second divisional showdown of Super Wild Card Weekend will be played on Monday night, and it's sure to be an exciting one. When these two teams played in Week 4, the Cardinals used a 17-3 run in the second quarter to acquire a 24-13 halftime lead. Arizona then scored 10 unanswered points in the third quarter, and that was that. In their rematch in Week 14, the Rams rode a 14-point third quarter to victory. Matthew Stafford completed 23 of 30 passes for 287 yards and three touchdowns while Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr. combined for 200 yards and two touchdowns. The passing game was working on Dec. 13.
Kyler Murray has historically struggled against L.A. He's 1-5 against the Rams with seven passing touchdowns and six interceptions. Additionally, Arizona had its worst defensive performance of the season last week against the Seattle Seahawks, which is not something you want to see right before the playoffs. Maybe you don't think the Rams are legitimate Super Bowl contenders, but they have enough talent to win this game against a team that floundered down the stretch.
The pick: Rams -4
Projected score: Rams 28-23