The Journal Gazette
 
 
Saturday, January 15, 2022 1:00 am

Jaws' Wild Card Picks

Young QBs in place to snatch spotlight

MARK JAWORSKI | The Journal Gazette

Well, here we go. The NFL playoffs are upon us, ands it starts today as Super Wild Card Weekend begins with two games. Three games follow Sunday and then wraps up with the first-ever Monday night playoff game.

There are some fresh faces in the tournament with the Eagles, Cardinals, Raiders, and Bengals all surprising most prognosticators.

They bring a slew of exciting, young quarterbacks to the dance including Jalen Hurts, Kyler Murray and Joe Burrow, while veteran Derek Carr gets a shot at the postseason for the first time after missing the Raiders' last trip because of an injury.

A glimpse back at my preseason predictions shows I correctly forecasted nine of the 14 playoff teams. The Colts, Browns, Ravens, Vikings and Seahawks disappointed me while the Bengals, Raiders, Steelers, Eagles, and Cardinals surprised me.

On to the postseason ...

Las Vegas at Cincinnati

Time: 4:30 p.m. today (NBC)

Records: Raiders 10-7; Bengals 10-7

The skinny: I like the Raiders' grit and gumption and their story of overcoming obstacles all season has been impressive. I want to like them to continue their ride with a win at Cincy, but coming off an emotionally draining overtime win Sunday night, traveling on a short week to face a rested and dangerous Bengals brimming with talent from Joe Burrow, to Ja'Marr Chase to Tee Higgins to Tyler Boyd and to Joe Mixon and all I know is these aren't Marvin Lewis' Bengals anymore.

Prediction: Bengals 26-21

New England at Buffalo

Time: 8:15 p.m. today (CBS)

Records: Patriots 10-7; Bills 11-6

The skinny: The third meeting of the season between these AFC East rivals will be played in near-zero temperatures. Buffalo has won four straight, is motivated to stamp itself as the heir apparent to the Patriots in the division and a force overall in the AFC on par with the Chiefs and Titans. New England stumbled to a 1-3 finish, and rookie QB Mac Jones and the defense look gassed. The Patriots don't have the firepower to keep up with Josh Allen and the Bills offense. A cold.

Prediction: Bills 30-17

Philadelphia at Tampa Bay

Time: 1 p.m. Sunday (Fox)

Records: Eagles 9-8; Buccaneers 13-4

The skinny: And so Tom Brady begins his quest for an 11th Super Bowl appearance. Who will bet against him? This game could be tougher than thought, what with Tampa Bay's receiver corps being thinning by injuries and Antonio Brown's release and Philadelphia's running game possibly shortening the game and limiting possessions. In the end, however, give me the GOAT to at least get through to the divisional round.

Prediction: Buccaneers 25-18

San Franciscoat Dallas

Time: 4:30 p.m. Sunday (CBS)

Records: 49ers 10-7; Cowboys 12-5

The skinny: This matchup is a throwback to the 1990s when these two franchises battled for Super Bowl supremacy. This iteration features a high-flying Dallas offense that can score from anywhere on the field and a San Francisco offense that has found its rhythm in a running game reminiscent of the one that powered it to Super Bowl LIV. The key may be a Cowboys defensive line that can pressure 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo into mistakes with Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs lying in wait. 

Prediction: 49ers 28-27

Pittsburgh at Kansas City

Time: 8:15 p.m. Sunday (NBC)

Records: Steelers 9-7-1; Chiefs 12-5

The skinny: Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger has staved off retirement with a clutch OT win and some help from the Raiders. He won't put it off anymore. Kansas City has been working toward this point and is primed for a charge to its third straight Super Bowl appearance. Even without running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, a banged-up Tyreek Hill, the Chiefs have enough options on offense to overwhelm the Steelers. And the revamped offensive line won't allow T.J. Watt to wreck its postseason as the Bucs' defensive line did last year in the Super Bowl.

Prediction: Chiefs 30-14

Arizona at L.A. Rams

Time: 8:15 p.m. Monday (ABC/ESPN)

Records: Cardinals 11-6; Rams 12-5

The skinny: Another division battle to cap the weekend. Arizona limped to the finish line, losing four of five and its grip of the top seed and the NFC West title. Los Angeles struggled a bit earlier, losing three straight at one point, but regrouped to win five straight before being stunned by San Francisco last week. QB Matthew Stafford has been loose with the football lately and that needs to end if the Rams' season is to continue. Questions also surround Cardinals QB Kyler Murray.

Prediction: Rams 27-25

Last week: 9-7; Season: 173-98-1

Mark Jaworski is sports editor at The Journal Gazette. He can be reached at mjaworski@jg.net.


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