Bleacher Report's Expert Wild Card Weekend 2023 NFL Picks

BR NFL StaffJanuary 13, 2023

Bleacher Report's Expert Wild Card Weekend 2023 NFL Picks

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    Saquon Barkley
    Saquon BarkleyAP Photo/Adam Hunger

    We've reached the NFL playoffs, which means fewer games to bet on and for some, more money at stake. With Wild Card Weekend upon us, let's cash in.

    NFL analysts Gary Davenport, Brent Sobleski, Kris Knox, Brad Gagnon and Maurice Moton, editor Wes O'Donnell and B/R Betting host of "Winners Only Wednesdays" Greg Ivory will guide you to big payoffs for the postseason. With Gagnon added to the group, we won't leave you on the fence with split decisions. This week, our crew likes big point spreads and two underdogs.

    We'll have two betting experts with dueling pick analysis for every game unless our crew comes to a unanimous decision, which only happened once this week.

    Most importantly, our experts believe their postseason bets will fare a lot better than their regular-season records, which you can see below. O'Donnell holds the leaderboard crown, but we've wiped the slate clean for the playoffs with Gagnon joining the panel.

    1. O'Donnell: 138-126-7 (12-4)

    T-2. Moton: 127-137-7 (9-7)

    T-2. Ivory: 127-137-7 (6-10)

    4. Knox: 126-138-7 (11-5)

    5. Davenport: 124-140-7 (6-10)

    6. Sobleski: 123-141-7 (9-7)

    Consensus picks: 117-115-7 (8-4)

    Lines are from DraftKings as of Thursday, Jan. 12, at 4 p.m. ET. Check DraftKings for the latest odds info. Information on public betting trends is courtesy of the Action Network. ATS records are provided by TeamRankings.

Seattle Seahawks (9-8) at San Francisco 49ers (13-4)

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    Brock Purdy
    Brock PurdyThearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    DraftKings Line: 49ers -9.5

    Quarterback Geno Smith resurrected his career with the Seattle Seahawks, throwing for 30 touchdowns and 11 interceptions with a league-leading 69.8 percent completion rate for the 2022 season, but his team is the second-biggest underdog in the wild-card matchups.

    On the opposing side, San Francisco 49ers rookie signal-caller Brock Purdy has won in his first five career starts, throwing for 11 touchdowns and two interceptions in those games. He has Pro Bowl and All-Pro playmakers at running back (Christian McCaffrey), wide receiver (Deebo Samuel) and tight end (George Kittle) with an All-Pro left tackle in Trent Williams. By the way, the 49ers' No. 1-ranked defense has Pro Bowlers on all three levels.

    Clearly, the 49ers have a loaded squad that can build big leads with a top-six scoring offense and maintain those margins with the league's stingiest defense.

    Davenport believes Smith's Comeback Player of the Year-worthy campaign ends with a blowout loss.

    "There probably isn't a game on Wild Card Weekend with higher odds of getting completely out of hand than the first game of the slate. The 49ers offense hasn't missed a beat since Brock Purdy took over at quarterback. The Niners possess arguably the best defense in the league.

    "Geno Smith is coming off a shaky performance last week against the Los Angeles Rams. And Seattle's defense allowed the seventh-most yards and eighth-most points per game in the league this season. The Seahawks have been a great story this year, but that story is about to have an ending that's more A Nightmare on Elm Street than Rudy."

    Knox took opponent familiarity into account and backed Seattle to cover the spread.

    "'Unfortunately, we're playing the Niners.' That comment by Seahawks coach Pete Carroll pretty much sums up the general perception of this matchup. The 49ers are loaded and red-hot. The Seahawks were lucky to sneak into the postseason. This one has the potential to get ugly for Seattle.

    "Yet I have a feeling that the Seahawks' familiarity with San Francisco and their ability to run the football allows them to keep it relatively close—similar to their eight-point loss in Week 15. I think San Francisco wins convincingly, but I can see Seattle doing just enough for a late backdoor cover."


    Davenport: 49ers

    Gagnon: 49ers

    Ivory: Seahawks

    Knox: Seahawks

    Moton: 49ers

    O'Donnell: 49ers

    Sobleski: 49ers

    Consensus: 49ers -9.5

    Score Prediction: 49ers 28, Seahawks 16

Los Angeles Chargers (10-7) at Jacksonville Jaguars (9-8)

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    Justin Herbert
    Justin HerbertMatthew Stockman/Getty Images

    DraftKings Line: Chargers -2.5

    In a matchup between clubs that have quarterbacks ascending, Trevor Lawrence and Justin Herbert will get their first taste of playoff action.

    The Jaguars have won five consecutive games, and they've put together that streak with an effective ground attack, a stingy defense and Lawrence making timely plays in crucial moments.

    Meanwhile, Chargers head coach Brandon Staley almost inadvertently sabotaged his team before this game. In a Week 18 contest that had no impact on his squad's postseason seeding, he decided to play edge-rusher Joey Bosa (groin), wideout Mike Williams (back) and linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr. (neck), who all suffered injuries. Among the three, Williams is the only one to miss multiple practices this week.

    Still, Knox gave Los Angeles the nod because he believes that Jacksonville is a year away from making a playoff run with a slightly less experienced quarterback.

    "This is shaping up to be perhaps the most fun game of Wild Card Weekend—sorry, I mean Super Wild Card Weekend. Two young quarterbacks, two aggressive defenses, offensive threats galore and two squads that got hot over the second half of the season. What's not to love? Jacksonville absolutely can win this game, especially if Brandon Staley's ill-advised decision to play starters in Week 18 leaves Mike Williams on the sideline.

    "I just think that Los Angeles is the more complete team right now, and Justin Herbert has a bit more experience than Trevor Lawrence. It'll be close, but I think Jacksonville's opportunity to make a run is a year away. L.A. is ready to make postseason noise now."

    Sobleski thinks the Jaguars can beat the Chargers in the trenches to pull off the upset while on a hot streak.

    "Playoff football is often about a team coming together at the right time, peaking when the games matter the most and catching a little lightning in the bottle. The Jaguars have been on a roll with five straight victories and Trevor Lawrence blossoming into the quarterback everyone imagined when he became the 2021 No. 1 overall pick.

    "Furthermore, the defensive line is one of the Jaguars' strengths after all of the investments the organization made in the position group. Conversely, offensive tackle remains suspect in Los Angeles. The chance of Jacksonville harassing Justin Herbert all game, while also being able to take the points, made this an easy decision, even if it goes against the grain."


    Davenport: Chargers

    Gagnon: Chargers

    Ivory: Chargers

    Knox: Chargers

    Moton: Chargers

    O'Donnell: Chargers

    Sobleski: Jaguars

    Consensus: Chargers -2.5

    Score Prediction: Chargers 34, Jaguars 31

Miami Dolphins (9-8) at Buffalo Bills (13-3)

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    Josh Allen
    Josh AllenTimothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

    DraftKings Line: Bills -13

    The Miami Dolphins won't have quarterback Tua Tagovailoa under center, which makes them massive underdogs in a matchup with the Buffalo Bills.

    According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Bills-Dolphins contest has the largest point spread in Wild Card Weekend history. While you would think a lot of bettors would side with a 13-point underdog in a playoff setting, as of Thursday, 74 percent of the public is backing Buffalo and most of our panelists are so as well.

    Despite the explosiveness of wideouts Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, Moton has no confidence in rookie quarterback Skylar Thompson, who's set to make his third career start.

    "The Dolphins plan to start Thompson for this contest—that's all bettors need to know before they place a wager on this game. The rookie seventh-rounder led the offense in a 11-6 win over the New York Jets to clinch a playoff spot, but he's thrown for a touchdown and three interceptions with a 57.1 percent completion rate in seven games (two starts). Teddy Bridgewater may be available, but he's had few reps this week because of knee and finger injuries. The Bills will roll the Dolphins by the biggest margin in this year's Wild Card Weekend games."

    Though the Dolphins have to shuffle the deck at quarterback, Gagnon thinks they'll continue their trend of close games with the Bills.

    "Even when the Dolphins were crashing and burning late in the regular season, they weren't routinely losing games by huge margins. I understand the big number here to an extent because of Tua Tagovailoa's absence and the overall heavy advantage enjoyed by the more talented home team, but familiarity should help a Dolphins team that played two close games with Buffalo during the regular season. Throw in the backdoor potential with such a high spread, and Miami's the pick."


    Davenport: Bills

    Gagnon: Dolphins

    Ivory: Dolphins

    Knox: Bills

    Moton: Bills

    O'Donnell: Bills

    Sobleski: Bills

    Consensus: Bills -13

    Score Prediction: Bills 35, Dolphins 20

New York Giants (9-7-1) at Minnesota Vikings (13-4)

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    Saquon Barkley
    Saquon BarkleyJim McIsaac/Getty Images

    DraftKings Line: Vikings -3

    The New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings will square off for the second time in three weeks. In the first meeting, the Vikings edged Big Blue with Greg Joseph's 61-yard game-winning field goal as time expired in regulation.

    Bettors should note that the Giants have a 6-1 record against the spread when they're the road underdog while the Vikings finished 4-4 against the spread as home favorites for the 2022 season.

    O'Donnell projected an outright upset for this matchup.

    "The Vikings and Giants did this dance not too long ago. That game's final line closed with the home team as 4.5-point favorites, and oddsmakers saw fit to go with the first showdown's winning margin this time around. The question now is whether Big Blue's defense can rattle Kirk Cousins and keep Justin Jefferson and T.J. Hockenson in check—a pair that combined for three TDs and 81 percent of the Vikings' receiving yardage in the Christmas Eve game.

    "Giants cornerback Adoree' Jackson, who hasn't played since November 20 and is questionable because of a knee injury, would be a huge boost if he can get on the field. Even if he can't go, the Giants will do everything in their power to make someone other than Jefferson beat them.

    "I expect Daniel Jones to make some throws, but the Giants should also unleash his running ability to keep the Vikes offense off the field. The Giants know what they can and cannot do offensively. Their defense is 'bend don't break' with a knack for buckling down, and I think that'll be enough to not just cover, but win outright."

    Sobleski justifiably gave the edge to Minnesota in a one-score game.

    "Vegas oddsmakers gave Minnesota the traditional home-team spread. But the number is important based on how the Vikings performed during the regular season. No team proved to be better in close games, with an 11-0 record in one-score contests. However, the average margin of victory in those contests happened to be 4.9 points. Besides, the Vikings already showed they can beat the Giants on Christmas Eve, and no one should expect Daniel Jones to throw for over 300 yards again, since he only did it twice all season."


    Davenport: Vikings

    Gagnon: Giants

    Ivory: Giants

    Knox: Giants

    Moton: Giants

    O'Donnell: Giants

    Sobleski: Vikings

    Consensus: Giants +3

    Score Prediction: Giants 28, Vikings 24

Baltimore Ravens (10-7) at Cincinnati Bengals (12-4)

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    Joe Burrow
    Joe BurrowAP Photo/Jeff Dean

    DraftKings Line: Bengals -8.5

    Like the Miami Dolphins, the Baltimore Ravens may turn to their third-string quarterback this weekend. Lamar Jackson hasn't practiced since he sprained his PCL in Week 13, and Tyler Huntley (right shoulder tendinitis and wrist injury) went through warm-ups without attempting a pass while undrafted rookie quarterback Anthony Brown "got a lot of reps on Wednesday," per Jonas Shaffer of the Baltimore Banner. Huntley ramped up his throwing activity on Thursday.

    On Thursday, Jackson shared an update on his condition via Twitter, letting everyone know he's in good spirits but still has inflammation around his knee, which "remains unstable."

    Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Bengals have a quarterback whom bettors can depend on to cover the spread. According to John Ewing of BetMGM, Joe Burrow's team is 19-4 against the point spread in his last 23 starts. You may want to call him moneybag Burrow with that track record.

    Moton can see Baltimore's defense muddying up the game, but he expects the Ravens to score few points as they lag behind on the scoreboard.

    "Last week, Brown made his first career start, completing 19 out of 44 passes for 286 yards and two interceptions against the Bengals. Because of his inexperience, he'll likely make more mistakes in his third NFL game against a defense that's forced nine turnovers in its last three outings. Though Baltimore's third-ranked scoring defense can slow down Burrow, Cincinnati may just need a few field goals and one touchdown to open up a big lead."

    Davenport went deeper into the Ravens' scoring woes without Jackson under center.

    "Were Jackson on track to play in this game, we would be looking at a much different matchup—and a much tighter spread. But as of Thursday, Jackson missed his 17th consecutive practice, and the odds that he makes it back by Sunday night are looking more remote by the day.

    "In five games with Jackson sidelined this season, the Ravens are averaging a dismal 13 points per contest. Per ESPN's Jamison Hensley, in 17 games during the John Harbaugh era in which the Ravens were at least a seven-point underdog, Baltimore has just three wins. The reeling Ravens can't score. The rolling Bengals have won eight straight. And this game could get away from Baltimore."


    Davenport: Bengals

    Gagnon: Bengals

    Ivory: Bengals

    Knox: Bengals

    Moton: Bengals

    O'Donnell: Bengals

    Sobleski: Bengals

    Consensus: Bengals -8.5

    Score Prediction: Bengals 21, Ravens 10

Dallas Cowboys (12-5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-9)

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    Tom Brady
    Tom BradyAP Photo/Danny Karnik

    DraftKings Line: Cowboys -2.5

    Based on win-loss records, the Dallas Cowboys have a much better team than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but the latter squad will host this game because it won a watered-down NFC South division that didn't have a single team with a winning record.

    For the 2022 season, Tampa Bay has a 1-6-1 home record against the spread while Dallas finished with a 4-4 road record against the spread.

    O'Donnell described the Cowboys as a boom-or-bust playoff team, and he expects them to deliver in this spot.

    "Week 1 doesn't feel just like a long time ago; it was a long time ago. The Bucs upended the Cowboys in Dallas in the Sunday Night Football season opener, and these are two very different teams now. Neither side has been particularly convincing with Tampa Bay winning a weak NFC South and Dak Prescott closing out the year by throwing an interception in seven straight games with multiple picks in four of those. You don't want to give Tom Brady additional bites at the apple, particularly in the playoffs.

    "Ultimately, I see the Cowboys as a better overall team but with unfortunate boom-or-bust potential. I'll take the boom in this round by leaning on Micah Parsons and company to bother Brady enough and hoping the offense will avoid turning it over en route to a surprisingly convincing victory. The bust will come the following weekend."

    On the other side of the coin, Gagnon isn't going to bet against Brady.

    "A team quarterbacked by Brady is getting points in a home playoff game from a team that has proved to be mistake-prone and unreliable? For me, this is about trust. And while the Cowboys are the better team, it's also about logic considering recent and historical trends. Buy half a point to get the Bucs with a full field goal in your back pocket if you can, but Tampa Bay is the choice regardless."


    Davenport: Buccaneers

    Gagnon: Buccaneers

    Ivory: Buccaneers

    Knox: Buccaneers

    Moton: Cowboys

    O'Donnell: Cowboys

    Sobleski: Buccaneers

    Consensus: Buccaneers +2.5

    Score Prediction: Buccaneers 23, Cowboys 21

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