NFL Game Previews: Sunday Wild-Card Matchups

NFL Game Previews: Sunday Wild-Card Matchups

This article is part of our NFL Game Previews series.

Philadelphia (+8.5) at Tampa Bay, o/u 46.0 – Sunday, 1 p.m. EST

These teams met in Week 6, with the Bucs winning on the road 28-22. That made the Eagles 2-4 at the time, but they found themselves in the second half as a Ravens-light running team that didn't rely too much on Jalen Hurts' arm. The second-year QB has taken a step forward as a passer this season, but a 61.3 percent completion rate and 7.3 YPA aren't close to elite, and his ability to run is still his best asset. The Eagles also get Miles Sanders back for this one after he missed the final two games of the regular season, but in general, attacking the Bucs' defense on the ground isn't the best idea. On the other hand, the weather expected at Raymond James Stadium could make passing the ball an adventure, so maybe taking what you can get on the ground will be the best approach after all. Tom Brady might steal another MVP award for a season in which no quarterback really dominated statistically, but setting a career high in passing yards at 44 is impressive no matter what. Brady also won't have his usual complement of weapons around him, with the backfield and receiving corps both depleted, but he got O.J. Howard a TD in the first game against Philly, so it's not like he doesn't still have options.

The Skinny

PHI injuries: RG Brandon Brooks (IR, pectoral), RG Nate Herbig (questionable, ankle),

Philadelphia (+8.5) at Tampa Bay, o/u 46.0 – Sunday, 1 p.m. EST

These teams met in Week 6, with the Bucs winning on the road 28-22. That made the Eagles 2-4 at the time, but they found themselves in the second half as a Ravens-light running team that didn't rely too much on Jalen Hurts' arm. The second-year QB has taken a step forward as a passer this season, but a 61.3 percent completion rate and 7.3 YPA aren't close to elite, and his ability to run is still his best asset. The Eagles also get Miles Sanders back for this one after he missed the final two games of the regular season, but in general, attacking the Bucs' defense on the ground isn't the best idea. On the other hand, the weather expected at Raymond James Stadium could make passing the ball an adventure, so maybe taking what you can get on the ground will be the best approach after all. Tom Brady might steal another MVP award for a season in which no quarterback really dominated statistically, but setting a career high in passing yards at 44 is impressive no matter what. Brady also won't have his usual complement of weapons around him, with the backfield and receiving corps both depleted, but he got O.J. Howard a TD in the first game against Philly, so it's not like he doesn't still have options.

The Skinny

PHI injuries: RG Brandon Brooks (IR, pectoral), RG Nate Herbig (questionable, ankle), DE Josh Sweat (questionable, illness)

TB injuries: RB Leonard Fournette (IR-R, hamstring), RB Ronald Jones (out, ankle), WR Cyril Grayson (out, hamstring), LB Lavonte David (IR-R, foot), CB Sean Murphy-Bunting (questionable, hamstring), CB Carlton Davis (questionable, back)

PHI DFS targets: none

TB DFS targets: Rob Gronkowski $6,400 DK / $7,400 FD (PHI 27th in DVOA vs. TE)

PHI DFS fades: Sanders $5,100 DK / $5,900 FD and Jordan Howard $4,300 DK / $5,200 FD (TB third in rushing yards per game allowed, fifth in rushing TDs allowed)

TB DFS fades: Eagles DEF $2,500 DK / $3,300 FD (31st in sacks, TB first in sacks allowed, second in points per game)

Key stat: TB is second in red-zone conversions at 66.2 percent; PHI is 28th in red-zone defense at 66.7 percent

Weather forecast: overcast, temperature in the high 60s, 20-21 mph wind, 55-65 percent chance of rain

The Scoop Sanders grinds out 50 yards. Hurts throws for 220 yards and runs for a score. Fournette returns and leads the TB backfield with 70 scrimmage yards and a TD, while Ke'Shawn Vaughn adds 50 yards. Brady throws for 250 yards and two touchdowns, finding Gronk and Mike Evans. Buccaneers 27-13

San Francisco (+3) at Dallas, o/u 51.0 – Sunday, 4:30 p.m. EST

This is the game targeted as the most likely upset this weekend, but that's more due to the Cowboys' erratic play all year rather than anything else. The Niners do come in with plenty of momentum, having won four of their last five to claim a wild card, including road victories in overtime against playoff-caliber foes in the Bengals and Rams. Jimmy Garoppolo is doing what he needs to do to either stay in San Francisco or bring back decent value in a trade to a QB-needy squad this offseason, gutting out a thumb injury sustained in Week 16 to lead the team to that Rams win. His overall numbers this year were largely the same as his 2019 campaign aside from a handful of lost TD passes, but the Niners don't need him to be anything more than competent when everything else is clicking. The Cowboys won five of their last six, but the loss was an embarrassing flop at home against the Cards when they still had a shot at the No. 1 seed. Dallas was 3-4 against teams that also made the playoffs (and 9-1 against also-rans), and two of those wins came against the Eagles who they crushed 92-47 in their two meetings. They're the more talented of the two teams, or at least have the more heralded individual players — Dak Prescott, CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, Micah Parsons, Trevon Diggs, etc. — and if they rise to the occasion, they're capable of winning on either or both sides of the ball. But if they come out like they did against Arizona, it could just as easily be a rout in the other direction.

The Skinny

SF injuries: LB Azeez Al-Shaair (questionable, knee)

DAL injuries: LB Keanu Neal (out, chest)

SF DFS targets: none

DAL DFS targets: Cooper $5,900 DK / $7,100 FD (SF 31st in DVOA vs. WR1)

SF DFS fades: Deebo Samuel $8,100 DK / $8,700 FD (DAL first in DVOA vs. WR1, first in passing DVOA vs. RB)

DAL DFS fades: Elliott $6,100 DK / $7,700 FD and Tony Pollard $5,300 DK / $5,700 FD (SF second in rushing DVOA, seventh in YPC allowed), Dalton Schultz $5,000 DK / $6,200 FD (SF fifth in DVOA vs. TE)

Key stat: SF is 14th in third-down conversions at 40.2 percent; DAL is second in third-down defense at 34.1 percent

Weather forecast: retractable roof

The Scoop: Elijah Mitchell scampers for 90 yards and two TDs. Garoppolo throws for 240 yards and a touchdown to George Kittle. Elliott manages 70 yards and a score, while Pollard adds 40 yards. Prescott lights it up for 330 yards and three touchdowns, finding Cooper (who tops 100 yards) twice and Cedrick Wilson once. Cowboys 37-21 

Pittsburgh (+12.5) at Kansas City, o/u 46.5 – Sunday, 8:15 p.m. EST

Ben Roethlisberger's swan song gets a coda. The Steelers snuck into the playoffs after the Raiders, of all teams, rejected the chaos of a tie in favor of a clean win over the Chargers, but it's not like they were playing badly down the stretch. Pittsburgh won three of their last four, with the defense allowing 14 points or less in all three wins ... but it's that fourth game, a 36-10 rout in Kansas City, that seems a bit more relevant. The Steelers' best chance of producing offense and keeping Patrick Mahomes off the field, rookie Najee Harris, also got banged up in the regular-season finale, which doesn't help. The only loss for Andy Reid's squad since the beginning of November came at the hands of the Bengals in Week 17, and that only by a field goal. Otherwise, K.C.'s final nine wins were by an average score of 29-11, a formula that looks awfully similar to their Super Bowl run a couple years ago. Mahomes still didn't look quite like himself down the stretch — his 12:2 TD:INT over six games since the team's bye is good, but his 7.8 YPA is below expectations for him — but if the defense keeps holding teams below two touchdowns, he doesn't need to post otherworldly numbers to keep Kansas City moving forward.

The Skinny

PIT injuries: RB Harris (questionable, elbow), WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (IR-R, shoulder)

KC injuries: RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (out, shoulder), RB Darrel Williams (questionable, toe), RT Lucas Niang (IR, knee)

PIT DFS targets: Harris $6,600 DK / $8,000 FD (KC 31st in YPC allowed, 26th in passing DVOA vs. RB)

KC DFS targets: Darrel Williams $5,500 DK / $6,600 FD and Derrick Gore $4,000 DK / $5,400 FD and Jerick McKinnon $4,100 DK / $5,200 FD (PIT 32nd in rushing yards per game allowed, 32nd in YPC allowed)

PIT DFS fades: Ray-Ray McCloud $3,700 DK / $4,900 FD (KC second in DVOA vs. WR3)

KC DFS fades: none

Key stat: KC is first in third-down conversions at 52.2 percent; PIT is t-7th in third-down defense at 37.1 percent

Weather forecast: clear, temperature in the low 20s, less than 10 mph wind, zero percent chance of rain/snow

The Scoop: Harris plays but gains only 60 yards, while Benny Snell punches in a short touchdown. Roethlisberger throws for 220 yards and a TD to Diontae Johnson. Williams picks up 70 scrimmage yards and a score, while Gore adds 50 yards and McKinnon hauls in a receiving TD. Mahomes throws for 280 yards and two more touchdowns, hitting Travis Kelce and Byron Pringle. Kansas City 28-20

Las Vegas (+5.5) at Cincinnati, o/u 49.0 – Saturday, 4:30 p.m. EST

Depending on your perspective, the Raiders, Steelers or Titans can lay claim to being this year's Team of Destiny, but of the two playing this weekend, Las Vegas probably has the best chance of actually advancing. Last week's completely unnecessary win over the Chargers did allow it to duck Kansas City in the wild-card round, and Daniel Carlson will never have to buy a drink or meal in Pittsburgh again, but was playing a grueling and emotionally draining OT game really worth it? Ehh, who knows, that narrative stuff is usually post-hoc bunk anyway. If they come out flat, they're tired; if they come out flying, they have momentum, baybee! Darren Waller did get a chance to shake off some rust, though, and if he's close to 100 percent healthy again Derek Carr has a better chance of keeping up with Joe Burrow. The Bengals gave a bunch of key personnel the week off in their finale (just sub in "stale" for "tired" and "rested" for "got momentum" above), but not playing at all has been the only thing that could slow Burrow down the stretch. He fired up nearly 1,000 passing yards with an 8:0 TD:INT, 78.8 percent completion rate and 11.4 YPA in his final two games, helping Ja'Marr Chase to the best rookie season by a receiver in the modern era (he fell a little short of Bill Groman's rookie receiving yards record set in 1960, but he also had nine more catches and one more TD than Groman). Cincy has plenty of other weapons too, but if Vegas can't disrupt the Burrow-Chase connection, they're probably done. Whoever wins, it'll be their first one in a while — the Raiders haven't won a playoff game since their Super Bowl appearance in 2002, while the Bengals have managed seven consecutive one-and-dones since they last won a postseason contest in 1991, when they beat the Houston Oilers in the wild-card round only to lose to the Los Angeles Raiders the following week.

The Skinny

LV injuries: LG Richie Incognito (IR, calf)

CIN injuries: RG Xavier Su'a-Filo (IR-R, knee)

LV DFS targets: Zay Jones $4,000 DK / $5,300 FD (CIN 27th in DVOA vs. WR2)

CIN DFS targets: C.J. Uzomah $3,500 DK / $5,200 FD (LV 25th in DVOA vs. TE)

LV DFS fades: none

CIN DFS fades: none

Key stat: CIN is 16th in red-zone conversions at 59.6 percent; LV is 32nd in red-zone defense at 81.4 percent

Weather forecast: cloudy, temperature in the high 20s, 9-10 mph wind, zero percent chance of rain/snow

The Scoop: Jacobs gains 90 combined yards and a touchdown. Carr throws for 260 yards and a score to Hunter Renfrow. Joe Mixon puts together 80 scrimmage yards and a TD. Burrow is electric, throwing for 320 yards and three touchdowns — one each to Chase (who tops 100 yards), Tee Higgins and Uzomah. Bengals 31-20

New England (+4) at Buffalo, o/u 44.0 – Saturday, 8:15 p.m. EST

Well, this should be fun. Round 3 of this AFC East rivalry comes after the Patriots won in Buffalo in Week 13, before the Bills returned the favor at Foxborough in Week 16. That might make the home team nervous, but New England's victory (the infamous "three pass attempts for Mac Jones" game) came in brutal weather conditions that won't be repeated Saturday and that leveled the playing field for the offenses. Jones did look a bit more like a rookie down the stretch, throwing as many INTs in the last four games (five) as he had in the 10 games prior, which could certainly encourage Bill Belichick to take the ball out of his hands again. The Pats are built to go as far as their running game and defense will take them, which should mean a big workload for Damien Harris (28-214-4 on the ground in the two prior meetings combined) regardless of how sharp Jones is. The Bills also feature an elite defense, perhaps even the best in the league this year, and also found a rushing attack down the stretch with Devin Singletary, who popped for 396 scrimmage yards and six TDs the last four weeks of the season. The difference between the clubs, of course, is Buffalo's $258 million man. Josh Allen took a step back as a passer from his 2020 performance, losing almost six points off his completion percentage and more than a yard off his YPA, but he still produced more than 40 TDs between his arm and his legs and set a career high in rushing yards. The wind got him in the first meeting this season, but his numbers in the rematch (314 passing yards, 3:0 TD:INT) demonstrate that he can handle the New England secondary when he's not fighting the elements as well. If the Bills are to advance, Allen needs to be the difference.

The Skinny

NE injuries: RB Harris (questionable, hamstring), WR Jakobi Meyers (questionable, thigh), LT Isaiah Wynn (questionable, hip), C David Andrews (questionable, shoulder), K Nick Folk (questionable, knee), CB Jalen Mills (questionable, COVID-19), S Kyle Dugger (questionable, hand)

BUF injuries: none

NE DFS targets: none

BUF DFS targets: none

NE DFS fades: Jones $5,300 DK / $6,500 FD (BUF first in passing DVOA, first in passing yards per game allowed, first in YPA allowed, first in TD% allowed), Nelson Agholor $3,500 DK / $5,000 FD (BUF first in DVOA vs. WR2), Kendrick Bourne $4,400 DK / $5,600 FD (BUF first in DVOA vs. WR3)

BUF DFS fades: Allen $7,900 DK / $8,800 FD (NE third in passing DVOA, second in passing yards per game allowed, second in YPA allowed), Stefon Diggs $7,500 DK / $8,000 FD (NE second in DVOA vs. WR1), Dawson Knox $5,100 DK / $6,000 FD (NE first in DVOA vs. TE)

Key stat: NE is 10th in third-down conversions at 43.5 percent; BUF is first in third-down defense at 30.8 percent

Head-to-head record, last five-plus years: 8-4 NE, average score 21-18 NE, average margin of victory 14 points. BUF has won three of the last four meetings, with an average score of 26-16 BUF during that stretch

Weather forecast: cloudy, temperature in the low single digits, less than 10 mph wind, zero percent chance of rain/snow

The Scoop: Harris bangs out 80 yards and a TD, while Rhamondre Stevenson adds 50 yards. Jones throws for less than 200 yards and gets picked off twice. Singletary manages 70 scrimmage yards and a touchdown. Allen throws for 240 yards and runs for 50, hitting Emmanuel Sanders for one score and running in another himself. Bills 21-16

Arizona (+4) at L.A. Rams, o/u 49.5 – Monday, 8:15 p.m. EDT

The teams split the season series, with the Cardinals winning 37-20 in Week 4 back when they were undefeated and atop the football world, before the Rams won 30-23 in Week 14 to start Arizona's late-season fade, as they lost four of their last five to lose their grip on the NFC West title. Kyler Murray didn't look like himself during that stretch, posting a 5:3 TD:INT and 6.6 YPA compared to a 17:7 TD:INT and 8.9 YPA through his first eight games before injuring his ankle against the Packers. If Murray can't regain his form, it's hard to see the Cards getting much of anywhere in the playoffs, especially with other key skill players on the shelf or less than 100 percent healthy. The Rams found their groove in December, winning five straight before losing to a desperate Niners squad in overtime in Week 18, but they did it with Matthew Stafford looking shaky — he posted an 8:8 TD:INT and 7.4 YPA in his last four starts, compared to a 22:4 TD:INT and 9.1 YPA in his first eight this season. That fade killed any MVP hopes he might have had, but it did pave the way for Cooper Kupp and his historic season to slide into the conversation. The NFL's fourth triple-crown receiver since 1970 was held in check the first time he faced Arizona — the only defense to hold him to less than 90 yards all year — but he had his revenge in the second meeting with a 13-123-1 line on 15 targets. Pair another performance like that with a Rams defense that gave up 18.2 points a game over its final six, and that should be enough to get them through.

The Skinny

ARI injuries: RB James Conner (questionable, ribs), RB Chase Edmonds (questionable, ribs), WR DeAndre Hopkins (IR, knee), WR Rondale Moore (questionable, ankle), LG Justin Pugh (questionable, calf), DE J.J. Watt (IR-R, shoulder), CB Robert Alford (IR, pectoral), CB Marco Wilson (questionable, shoulder)

LAR injuries: RB Darrell Henderson (IR, knee), WR Van Jefferson (questionable, shoulder), S Taylor Rapp (questionable, concussion)

ARI DFS targets: none

LAR DFS targets: Jefferson $4,700 DK / $5,700 FD (ARI 28th in DVOA vs. WR3)

ARI DFS fades: Conner $6,300 DK / $8,000 FD and Edmonds $5,000 DK / $6,400 FD and Eno Benjamin $4,000 DK / $5,300 FD (LAR fifth in rushing DVOA, fifth in YPC allowed), Zach Ertz $4,700 DK / $5,800 FD (LAR fourth in DVOA vs. TE)

LAR DFS fades: Sony Michel $5,400 DK / $6,700 FD and Cam Akers $4,200 DK / $5,400 FD (ARI sixth in rushing DVOA, t-3rd in rushing TDs allowed), Kupp $9,000 DK / $10,000 FD (ARI third in DVOA vs. WR1), Tyler Higbee $4,100 DK / $5,900 FD (ARI second in DVOA vs. TE)

Key stat: ARI is t-14th in red-zone conversions at 60.0 percent; LAR are eighth in red-zone defense at 51.8 percent

Head-to-head record, last five-plus years: 10-2 LAR, average score 27-17 LAR, average margin of victory 19 points. Only two of the last 11 meetings have been decided by single digits. LAR have won nine of the last 10 meetings

Weather forecast: indoor

The Scoop: Edmonds leads the ARI backfield with 80 combined yards. Murray throws for 260 yards and two scores, finding Christian Kirk and Antoine Wesley. Michel rumbles for 70 yards and a touchdown. Stafford throws for 310 yards and three TDs, hitting Kupp (who tops 100 yards) twice and Odell Beckham once. Rams 31-23


Last week's record: 9-7, 11-5 ATS, 9-7 o/u
2021 regular-season record: 174-97-1, 146-125-1 ATS, 125-143-4 o/u
2020 regular-season record: 164-91-1, 129-119-8 ATS, 117-133-6 o/u
Lifetime record: 1288-769-7, 1005-992-67 ATS, 735-787-30 o/u (o/u not tracked in 2015)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Erik Siegrist
Erik Siegrist is an FSWA award-winning columnist who covers all four major North American sports (that means the NHL, not NASCAR) and whose beat extends back to the days when the Nationals were the Expos and the Thunder were the Sonics. He was the inaugural champion of Rotowire's Staff Keeper baseball league. His work has also appeared at Baseball Prospectus.
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