The 2022 NFL Playoffs have arrived, offering another six-game action-packed “super” wildcard weekend. There’s a fair share of tight spreads, but also big favorites for the unofficial Week 19.
That makes final picks and ATS predictions as tricky as the typical regular-season slate, but with far fewer head-to-head matches. Here’s Sporting News’ prediction for all six of the NFL’s three-day playoff games, starting with a classic NFC comeback.
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NFL Playoff Pick, ATS Predictions
- Game of the week: 49ers at Cowboys (-3, 47 o / u)
Sunday, 4:40 p.m. ET, CBS and Nickelodeon
The Cowboys decided to play their starters in Week 18 and were rewarded with warmth from Dak Prescott in her playoff warm-up. The 49ers spent a lot of offensive energy coming back to beat the Rams in overtime. Both teams can run when needed, but the 49ers are more determined to do so. The Cowboys, however, have the most reliable clashes in the passing game, while Jimmy Garoppolo also plays due to a right thumb injury.
San Francisco will try to slow down to keep Prescott off the field and also protect his defense. Dallas will be hungry and look to force Garoppolo to make mistakes, with Micah Parsons and Trevon Diggs once again leading the pressure-blanket combination. A few more weapons and a more effective Prescott allow the Cowboys to survive a shootout.
Take: The Cowboys win 31-24 and cover the gap.
Saturday, 4:35 p.m. ET, NBC
The Bengals decided to rest Joe Burrow and other key starters in Week 18 and also did not have running back Joe Mixon due to COVID-19 protocols. This will keep Cincinnati fresh in their quest for their first playoff win since 1990 in their first playoff appearance since 2015. Burrow is key to stopping the streak as he will tear apart a flashy but overall fragile Raiders defense.
It’s a tough turnaround for the Raiders, who got tired of playing in overtime on Sunday night. The Bengals can do whatever they want offensively and their pressure will ensure that Derek Carr has no chance of returning.
Take: The Bengals win 34-17 and cover the gap.
- Upset of the Week: Cardinals (+4, 50.5 b / u) vs. Rams
Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
The Cardinals and Rams have split their streak of seasons, with Kyler Murray and Matthew Stafford negotiating turnover issues. The Cardinals were a skilled road team in the regular season while the Rams struggled more at home. Murray can dig deeper to make big plays while reducing errors and leaning a little more on his run. Stafford has faced more heat lately and has been more negligent in throwing the field.
Overall, Arizona are more versatile and multiple at getting around Los Angeles defensive strengths, while their defense will compensate for giving up running and passing with key bags and a takeout.
Take: Cardinals win 30-27.
MORE: Ranking Every NFL Playoff Team On Real Super Bowl Odds
- Patriots at Bills (-4.5, 43.5 o / u)
Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET, CBS
The Patriots and Bills also meet for the third time after each winning an AFC East game once. New England rode Buffalo for the first time on the road, while Buffalo discovered how to win at Foxborough by diversifying the offense around Josh Allen. Expect a well-trained defensive attrition battle between Bill Belichick and Sean McDermott. Mac Jones will get good support in his first playoff start, but he’s still a rookie while Allen is a youngster with favorable playoff experience.
Take: Bills earn 23-20 but fail to cover the gap.
Sunday 1:05 p.m. ET, Fox
This is another rematch of the regular season. Tampa Bay won at Philadelphia 28-22 on a Thursday night in Week 6. Unfortunately for the Eagles, their offensive strengths and defensive weaknesses also don’t match beating the Buccaneers this time around. The heavy running approach won’t work against the Bucs’ strong running defense.
The issues with stopping the run and dealing with tight ends and bigger broads do not bode well against Tom Bradys’ back and receiving targets. Brady led the Bucs against a weak NFC East team to open last year’s playoffs. He has locked himself in further, adjusting to the absence of Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown in Week 18 and should also receive quick and defensive reinforcements to better support him this week.
Take: The buccaneers win 27-17 and cover the gap.
Sunday, 8:15 p.m. ET, NBC
The Steelers fell short of the Chiefs in Week 16, losing 36-10 to Kansas City. While it’s good that Ben Roethlisberger gets one more playoff game to cap his career, he must also exorcise the demons of last year’s disastrous home loss to the Browns in the same round. Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs found their ideal methodical approach with a tight attack. They will continue to pivot for a strong run by setting up down passes.
The Steelers will try to stay grounded with Najee Harris and put TJ Watt and the defense in more favorable places to take on Mahomes. But they need a lot more Roethlisberger and the passing game, which is disappointing despite the weapons. Big Ben walks towards sunset, while Mahomes continues to shine.
Take: Heads 33-19 and cover the spread.
Statistics of the week
- Week 18 against the spread: 8-8
- Week 18 in a row: 8-8
- Season Against Spread: 149-121
- Direct season: 181-90