NFL playoff picks, predictions for wild-card games: 49ers upset Cowboys; Bills, Cardinals win rubber matches

NFL Wild Card Weekend is here with three days of exciting playoff matchups.

Last season, the lowest seed was 4-2 S/U in the wild card round. Where will the surprises come from this season? Will the Raiders continue their Cinderella run in Cincinnati? Joe Burrow will try to lead the Bengals to their first postseason victory since the 1990 playoffs.

A couple of divisional rubber matches should be interesting. New England travels to Buffalo, and Arizona meets Los Angeles along the way.

A classic NFC rivalry is renewed when San Francisco travels to Dallas, and Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s farewell tour makes another stop in Kansas City. That leaves Tampa Bay, the defending Super Bowl champions. Tom Brady will be looking to start another Super Bowl run against Philadelphia.

It’s a great weekend, no doubt. Here are Sporting News’ picks for the wild card round.

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NFL playoff picks, predictions for 2022 wild card games

  • Las Vegas Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals (-6)

Saturday, 4:35 p.m., NBC, Peacock

Burrow’s first postseason start will be in the spotlight, but the Bengals were content to give Joe Mixon 30 carries in the regular-season matchup, which he took for 123 yards and two touchdowns. The Raiders have beefed up their run defense since then, and they have the confidence that comes with winning four straight games with one touchdown. Cincinnati has lost its last seven playoff games. Burrow ends that streak with a late connection to Ja’Marr Chase, but it’s not easy.

Bengals 31, Raiders 28

  • New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills (-4.5)

Saturday, 8:15 p.m., CBS, Paramount+

Josh Allen passed for 314 yards and three TDs in the second meeting between these teams. The visiting team won every regular-season matchup, and the intrigue surrounding Bill Belichick leading another playoff race is there. Rookie Mac Jones will also be making his first playoff start. It’s a battle between the top two scoring defenses in the NFL, and snow is forecast. The temptation to surprise the Patriots is there, but Buffalo shows up.

Bills 26, Patriots 20

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  • Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-8.5)

Sunday, 1:00 p.m., FOX

The Eagles have been impressive under Jalen Hurts, but this is a big question down the road. Tom Brady and the Buccaneers have put the drama surrounding the release of Antonio Brown in the rearview mirror. Tampa Bay will have to generate a running game to keep the Eagles’ defense honest, but Brady will connect with Rob Gronkowski for a pair of touchdowns. The tandem will most likely remember Super Bowl LII.

Buccaneers 31, Eagles 21

  • San Francisco 49ers vs. Dallas Cowboys (-3)

Sunday, 4:30 p.m., CBS, Paramount+, Nickelodeon

The Cowboys have the best statistical offense in the NFL. Dak Prescott has playmakers to work with, and Micah Parsons has been dominant all season. So what is the problem? San Francisco is matched well and the 49ers are healthy. Jimmy Garoppolo will be supported by a strong running game, and a defense led by Nick Bosa causes some turnovers. San Francisco heads into another classic matchup against the Packers in the divisional round.

49ers 28, Cowboys 26

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  • Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs (-8.5)

Sunday, 8:15 p.m., NBC

The Steelers bounced back in the postseason and will play with nothing to lose behind Ben Roethlisberger, who is 13-9 in the postseason. Patrick Mahomes II, however, is home, and this is the same Chiefs team that beat the Steelers 36-10 in Week 16. It’s closer this time, but the Chiefs are still going.

Chiefs 35, Steelers 20

  • Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams (-4)

Monday, 8:15 p.m., ESPN, ABC, ESPN2

The Cardinals went 1-4 in their last five games and allowed 30 points per game in the four losses. The Rams won the NFC West, and this is Matthew Stafford’s chance to make a Super Bowl run. The Rams have won nine of the last 10 meetings. Despite all that, Kyler Murray nearly rocked the NFC playoff picture by leading the Cardinals to victory.

Cardinals 33, Rams 30