Are you ready for some NFL playoff football?
The NFL Wild Card round will have a massive effect on who wins the 2022 Super Bowl. The addition of another wild card spot eliminated a bye week for the second seed. This is another chance for an upset before the conference championship rounds.
The AFC Wild Card will be especially interesting. Kicking off with two games on Saturday and then wrapping up on Sunday Night Football, the AFC is hard to predict. The familiar faces we're used to aren't around anymore.
The top-seed Tennessee Titans loom as a major threat as they enjoy their bye week. Kansas City, Cincinnati, Las Vegas, New England, Buffalo, and Pittsburgh are vying to join the Titans in the next round. We're breaking down each of the three AFC games and providing a pick for you to profit on.
Las Vegas Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals
Rematches rarely go the same way twice. Time allows the coaching staff to adjust for whatever went wrong. Talented players can prepare for a team's best shot, which is often what causes the loser to fall in the first matchup.
Las Vegas learned this the hard way against Cincinnati earlier in the year. Their 32-13 loss was humiliating as the Bengals shut down the Raiders' offense and dominated them with Joe Mixon leading a pulverizing run game. It's scary that Cincinnati won so easily with Joe Burrow throwing for only 148 yards.
The Raiders deserve credit for improving since this matchup, but their personnel can still be exposed. Both Kansas City and Los Angeles were able to sustain efficient attacks even as the Raiders' heralded pass-rush reigned down on them. If he needs to, Burrow will do the same.
Las Vegas may cover this large spread because they're gritty, well-coached, and playing above their heads. But I have to trust the talent difference in this game. We saw the Raiders don't belong in the same conversation as the Bengals in their first go-around, and it'll play out similarly this time.
Pick: Bengals -5.5 (-110)
New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills
We're lucky enough to get a trilogy of this great AFC East rivalry. The snow battle that featured just 19 passing yards from Mac Jones and the Patriots was great content fodder for a week, but the rematch just three weeks later played out much differently. When playing well, the Bills simply overwhelmed the Patriots.
Buffalo's playmaking has taken a sharp rise as Devin Singletary has finally earned more of a role in the last month of play. Singeltary has tallied rushing yardage totals of 86, 110, and 88 in three of the last four weeks, and six total touchdowns. His ascent into a viable threat as a rusher and receiver has answered the question many critics had about this offense's well-roundedness.
Josh Allen is easily the most influential player in this matchup. He's been downright bad in cold games, completing 50% of his passes and ranking as the 40th of 41 quarterbacks in freezing weather. If he's average or worse, whether due to the weather or Bill Belichick's coaching, the Patriots will cover and could win.
New England has the recipe to wear Buffalo down, limit possessions, and get into Allen's head. Their last game, a 33-21 Bills win, was sparked by a dominant Allen performance. It's not that he can't replicate it, but quarterbacks rarely stay clean against the Patriots as he did, and Belichick is infamous for deceiving passers by changing looks in the next matchup.
I'll call the cover, but think the Patriots money line is a solid play as well. New England must get more out of Jones for the offense to be competitive too, but again this is a staff that has earned the benefit of the doubt in crucial times.
Pick: Patriots +4.5 (-105)
Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs
You know things don't bode well for the underdog when the starting quarterback says his team doesn't have a chance to win. Ben Roethlisberger was being strategic with this comment, but he's largely right. The Kansas City Chiefs have been performing as a powerhouse over the last eight games, with wins in 10 of their last 12 overall.
Pittsburgh would need a throwback game from Roethlisberger and several huge mistakes by Patrick Mahomes and his receivers to win this game. But with a 12.5-point line, this is a more interesting angle. Pittsburgh was walloped 36-10 in their last matchup only three weeks ago.
The turnover battle was the difference. Kansas City forced an interception, a strip-sack, and one fumble from Diontae Johnson. Those turnovers effectively ended the game by halftime. It's relatively unlikely to avalanche, in the same manner, this go-around.
That being said, the Chiefs have way too much firepower and have built a reliable identity to depend on. I don't like laying this many points, but Pittsburgh fails to stack up in every category against the Chiefs. Kansas City can rip their heart out with a few scoring drives as the Steelers flail offensively against the Chiefs' aggressive defense.
Pick: Chiefs -12.5 (-110)
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