The 2022 NFL playoffs have arrived, providing another action-packed “super” wild card weekend of six games. There are a fair amount of close spreads, but also strong favorites for the unofficial Week 19.
That makes the latest picks and predictions against the spread just as tricky as the typical regular season slate, only with far fewer matchups. Here’s the Sporting News forecast for all six NFL playoff games over three days, starting with an all-time NFC classic.
NFL Playoff Picks, Predictions Against The Spread
- Game of the week: 49ers at Cowboys (-3, 47 o / u)
Sunday, 4:40 pm ET, CBS and Nickelodeon
The Cowboys decided to play with their starters in Week 18 and were rewarded by Dak Prescott turning red hot in his preparation for the playoffs. The 49ers expended good offensive energy coming back to beat the Rams in overtime. Both teams can run when necessary, but the 49ers are more committed to doing so. The Cowboys, however, have the most dependable matchups across the board in passing game, while Jimmy Garoppolo also plays with a right thumb injury.
San Francisco will try to slow down the game to keep Prescott off the field and also protect its defense. Dallas will be eager to force Garoppolo to make mistakes, with Micah Parsons and Trevon Diggs leading the combination of pressure and coverage again. A few more guns and a more efficient Prescott allow the Cowboys to survive a firefight.
The Cowboys win 31-24 and cover the spread.
Saturday, 4:35 pm 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. That will keep Cincinnati fresh in pursuit of its first playoff win since 1990 in its first playoff appearance since 2015. Burrow is the key to stopping the streak, as he will dismantle a flashy but generally shaky Raiders defense. .
This is a tough trade for the Raiders, who got tired of playing overtime Sunday night. The Bengals can do whatever they want offensively and their pressure will ensure Derek Carr has no chance to come back.
Bengals win 34-17 and cover the spread.
- Surprise of the week: Cardinals (+4, 50.5 o / u) over Rams
Monday, 8:15 pm ET, ESPN
The Cardinals and Rams split their season series, with Kyler Murray and Matthew Stafford trading rotation problems. The Cardinals were an expert road team in the regular season, while the Rams had more problems at home. Murray can dig deeper to make big plays while reducing errors and having a little more confidence in his running. Stafford has faced more heat lately and has been more careless when pitching downfield.
Overall, Arizona is more versatile and multi-layered to work around Los Angeles’ defensive strengths, while its defense will make up for what stops running and passing with key sacks and a takeout.
The Cardinals win 30-27.
- Patriots in Bills (-4.5, 43.5 o / u)
Saturday, 8:15 pm ET, CBS
The Patriots and Bills also meet for the third time after winning once each in the AFC East. New England ran Buffalo the first time on the road, while Buffalo figured out 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 young man with favorable playoff experience.
Tickets win 23-20 but fail to cover the spread.
Sunday 1:05 pm 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 fit in to beat the Buccaneers this time around. The heavy-run approach won’t work against the Bucs’ solid run defense.
Trouble stopping the run and handling bigger tight ends and wide receivers doesn’t bode well against Tom Bradys’ backs and wide receivers. Brady led the Bucs over a weak NFC East team to open last year’s playoffs. He became more focused, did not adjust to Chris Godwin or Antonio Brown in Week 18 and should also receive defensive and running reinforcements to better support him this week.
The Buccaneers win 27-17 and cover the difference.
Sunday, 8:15 pm ET, NBC
The Steelers were no match for the Chiefs in Week 16, losing 36-10 at Kansas City. While it’s good that Ben Roethlisberger gets one more playoff game to crown his career, he also needs to exorcise the demons of last year’s disastrous home loss to the Browns in the same round. Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs have found their ideal methodical approach with a tight offense. They will continue to turn to a strong run setting up passes downfield.
The Steelers will try to stay grounded with Najee Harris and put TJ Watt and the defense in more favorable spots to chase Mahomes. But they need a lot more from Roethlisberger and the passing game, which is disappointing despite the weapons. Big Ben walks away into the sunset, while Mahomes continues to shine.
Heads 33-19 and covers the spread.
- Week 18 against the spread: 8-8
- Week 18 in a row: 8-8
- Season Against Spread: 149-121
- Direct season: 181-90