This is less a gambling guide, and more an overview of the weekend’s action with predictions. But my gambling choices are evident in my final score prognostications. (All lines from DraftKings Sportsbook.)
Seahawks at 49ers (-9.5), Over/Under: 42.5
- Just as we all predicted in August, the 2022 season could be decided by Brock Purdy’s performance in the postseason. Purdy was a player I liked in the draft, precisely because I watched him play football and not run around in his underwear in Indianapolis. He was a gamer at Iowa State, and those types of guys tend to find a role in the NFL.
- Seattle is playing with house money and teams in that position are always dangerous. This feels like a game that is 13-13 early in the second quarter, and gamblers start getting nervous, only to see it completely unravel for the Seahawks after a costly turnover or two.
- 49ers 34, Seahawks 16
Chargers (-2) at Jaguars, Over/Under: 47.5
- This was the predictable Saturday night contest, but if the league had some leadership, they would have put it in the premier Sunday night slot and marketed the hell out of these two young superstar QBs. Instead, the game of the weekend will be played in the least-watched time slot.
- This game feels incredibly even, and when that’s the case I look at three essential elements: quarterback, coach and building. Quarterback is a push right now, and the home field in Jacksonville isn’t much of one. But this is the most significant coaching mismatch of the week. Doug Pederson is a big game guy and Brandon Staley has absolutely no in-game feel. The latter will make a head-scratching decision (he always does) to decide this contest.
- Jaguars 27, Chargers 23
Dolphins at Bills (-13.5), Over/Under: 47
- Was it the Dolphins? Was it the league? Was it his family? It’s not important. Tua Tagovailoa is not playing in this ballgame and that is important for the long-term health of the young man’s brain. Tua will now have the next seven months to establish whether he wants to assume the risk of continuing his football career. One hopes that he’ll visit with serious neurologists during that time, doctors unaffiliated with the league.
- Without Tua, this is a serious mismatch.
- Bills 40, Dolphins 17
Giants at Vikings (-3), Over/Under: 48.5
- Brian Daboll is the coach of the year. Getting to the playoffs with this Giants roster is a brilliant achievement. But we have seen the overachieving first-year coach flop pretty quickly in the NFL. (See: Nagy, Matt.) The decision this organization makes at quarterback will define his tenure in New Jersey and one must believe that decision will be impacted by Daniel Jones’ performance Sunday. If he shows Daboll and Joe Schoen he can win a playoff game on the road, what decision is left?
- Doesn’t it seem everyone likes the Giants in this spot? Rubs me the wrong way. I’m pulling a Bob Seger and running against the wind.
- Vikings 26, Giants 20
Ravens at Bengals (-7), Over/Under: 42
- How do the Ravens win this game without Lamar Jackson? The answer is they don’t. Snoop Huntley should make Baltimore more competitive than Anthony Brown, but this Bengals team is too good to lose to a backup quarterback, at home, in the postseason.
- There was no way a Bills v. Bengals rematch could be avoided.
- Bengals 27, Ravens 13
Cowboys (-2.5) at Bucs, Over/Under: 45.5
- This feels like a game with potentially severe ramifications. Will Jerry Jones fire Mike McCarthy for Sean Payton should the Cowboys flame out? (He says he won’t.) If the Bucs lose, does the club keep Todd Bowles after this miserable campaign? And with rumors spreading that Tom Brady does not intend to retire, how does this game factor into the decision?
- This is the toughest pick of the week. And while it is not my preferred outcome, Dak Prescott has been one of the worst quarterbacks in the league for the last month and I think that continues.
- Bucs 28, Cowboys 24
This would set up a divisional round of Jaguars at Chiefs, Bengals at Bills, Bucs at Eagles and Vikings at Niners.