The N.F.L. playoffs are right here and with them comes the added theater of the primary Monday night time wild-card sport and two matchups of groups assembly for the third time this season that may anchor the postseason’s opening weekend.
Saturday night time’s Patriots-Payments III and Monday’s third contest between the N.F.C. West-rival Cardinals and Rams sandwich a weekend the place parity — and familiarity — must be on show. A rematch between the Raiders and Bengals, and a contest between the Cowboys and the 49ers, two of the N.F.L.’s most-storied franchises, must also ramp up the drama after Las Vegas and San Francisco each wanted additional time to assert their playoff spots.
This weekend, although, the N.F.L.’s sudden-death additional time guidelines will apply: The size of the additional interval stretches to fifteen minutes from 10, and there gained’t be any query of whether or not to kneel for the reason that video games will proceed till somebody scores.
Right here’s a have a look at the wild-card spherical of the N.F.L. playoffs, with all picks made in opposition to the unfold.
Final week’s file: 6-10
Common-season file: 129-143
All instances are Japanese.
Saturday’s Video games
Las Vegas Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals, 4:30 p.m., NBC
Line: Bengals -5.5 | Whole: 49.5
There are few tales this postseason extra attention-grabbing than the Raiders (10-7), a group as soon as thought of out of playoff rivalry till it closed the common season by successful 4 consecutive one-score video games to earn a wild-card spot. They face a Bengals (10-7) offense that has thrived beneath Joe Burrow, who enters the sport on a tear, having thrown for over 300 yards in three of his final 4 begins.
2021 N.F.L. Season Information and Evaluation
Burrow may exploit the Raiders’ secondary, the most-vulnerable unit of Las Vegas’s protection, which has allowed over 300 passing yards 4 instances this season. The Professional Bowl defensive finish Maxx Crosby and different lineman can generate stress in opposition to a Bengals entrance that’s given up 55 sacks. However the Bengals have a Plan B in Joe Mixon, who completed third within the league in speeding yards (1,205), and will thrive as a receiver on check-down routes in opposition to the Raiders’ zone-based protection. Cincinnati beat Las Vegas comfortably in Week 11, and there’s little cause to suppose it won’t occur once more. Choose: Bengals -5.5
New England Patriots at Buffalo Payments, 8:15 p.m., CBS
Line: Payments -4 | Whole: 42.5
Spherical 3, anybody?
Each good battle wants a 3rd installment, and this assembly between the Payments (11-6) and Patriots (10-7) could possibly be just like the primary, in Week 13, when New England let Mac Jones try solely three passes in its win over Buffalo. Forecasts in Orchard Park, N.Y., on Saturday name for temperatures that hover round 0 levels and a 30 % probability of snow, an outlook that once more favors a heavy reliance on the working sport.
The Payments’ protection allowed league lows in yards and factors within the common season, however it has been prone to the run. Within the groups’ late-December assembly, a Buffalo win, the Payments compelled Jones right into a 14 of 32 passing efficiency with no landing throws and two interceptions. Assuming extra of the offensive load in latest weeks, Jones has regarded just like the rookie he’s, and trusting a first-year passer to beat the unfold, on the street, within the chilly, in opposition to an ascending group isn’t actually a secure guess. Choose: Payments -4
Sunday’s Video games
Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1 p.m., Fox
Line: Buccaneers -8.5 | Whole: 49
Tom Brady must endure mentions of Tremendous Bowl LII and the Philly Particular as he prepares for the Eagles (9-8), who pivoted their season by specializing in the run to such an extent that Philadelphia completed with the league’s highest speeding common (159.7 yards per sport). The Eagles’ salvation performs proper into a serious power of Tampa Bay’s, since they offer up solely 92.5 working yards per sport, third-fewest within the league.
And the Buccaneers’ (13-4) injured starters are trickling again into the lineup. Coach Bruce Arians mentioned Monday that he anticipated working again Leonard Fournette (hamstring), linebacker Shaquil Barrett (knee) and edge rusher Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder) to play Sunday. That bodes nicely as they try and defend their Tremendous Bowl championship, not revisit Brady’s nightmares. Choose: Buccaneers -8.5
San Francisco 49ers at Dallas Cowboys, 4:30 p.m., CBS
Line: Cowboys -3 | Whole: 50.5
This the closest unfold of wild-card weekend, and for good cause: The 49ers (10-7) can counter all the pieces Dallas does nicely defensively. The brief drop backs and speeding assaults which are staples of Coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense negate linebacker Micah Parsons’s capacity to generate stress and sacks (he has 13 this season). San Francisco doesn’t depend on deep throws, which may neutralize Trevon Diggs, the Dallas cornerback who led the league in interceptions (11).
Regardless of the beating Dallas (12-5) gave to Philadelphia’s backups final week, the Cowboys’ offense has extra typically suffered from miscommunications between Dak Prescott and his receivers and an inconsistent run sport. Behind the versatile receiver Deebo Samuel and a protection that allowed a mean of solely 260 yards over its last 4 common season video games, the 49ers may look to safe an upset, or at the least maintain the rating uncomfortably shut. Choose: 49ers +3
Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas Metropolis, 8:15 p.m., NBC
Line: Kansas Metropolis -12.5 | Whole: 46
One may argue that the Steelers (9-7-1) are the luckiest group within the postseason, as they benefited from the Colts’ inexplicable Week 18 breakdown in opposition to the Jaguars to sneak into the playoffs. That magic — and Ben Roethlisberger’s N.F.L. profession — ought to finish in opposition to Kansas Metropolis (12-5), which blew out Pittsburgh by 26 factors in Week 16.
Kansas Metropolis Coach Andy Reid anticipates Tyreek Hill (heel), and working backs Darrel Williams (toe) and Clyde Edwards-Helaire (shoulder) to all play. Positive, Kansas Metropolis underwhelmed in its season-ending win in opposition to the Broncos, however nothing in Pittsburgh’s latest performances factors to the Steelers being greater than a bump within the street. Choose: Kansas Metropolis -12.5
Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams, 8:15 p.m., ESPN
Line: Rams -4 | Whole: 49.5
The very best group within the N.F.L. by means of October, the Cardinals (11-6) have misplaced 4 of their final 5 video games and relinquished home-field benefit, they usually now should journey to face the division-rival Rams (12-5). Arizona could get some much-needed assist if J.J. Watt, who returned to observe this week after a three-month absence, is out there, although his standing continues to be unsure. Receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who has a knee damage and hasn’t performed since Week 14, won’t be obtainable.
Matthew Stafford completed the season tied for first within the league in interceptions (17), and his decision-making shall be examined with microscopic scrutiny because the playoffs progress, given the draft capital Common Supervisor Les Snead gave as much as Detroit to commerce for him. However at the least for the primary spherical, he can rely on the Cardinals’ errors to be extra damaging: Arizona has been flagged for at the least six penalties in every sport throughout a five-game stretch, and has fumbled an egregious 17 center-quarterback snaps this season. Choose: Rams -4
How Betting Traces Work
A fast primer for many who will not be conversant in betting strains: Favorites are listed subsequent to a detrimental quantity that represents what number of factors they need to win by to cowl the unfold. Raiders -5.5, for instance, implies that Las Vegas should beat Chicago by at the least 6 factors for its backers to win their guess. Gamblers may guess on the entire rating, or whether or not the groups’ mixed rating within the sport is over or beneath a preselected variety of factors.