NFL wild-card predictions: Not all the top seeds are going to win

Rams coach Sean McVay and Arizona Cardinals  coach Kliff Kingsbury talk before their game in December.
Having split their regular-season games this season, Rams coach Sean McVay (left) and Arizona Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury will face each other for a third time — Monday night in the NFL playoffs.
(Jennifer Stewart / Associated Press)

Los Angeles Times’ NFL writer, Sam Farmer, examines this week’s playoff matchups in the NFL wild-card round. Lines according to FanDuel. Last week’s record 10-6 (.625); season 174-97-1 (.642). Using point spreads with the scores Farmer had predicted, the record against the spread last week would have been 10-6 (.625); season 135-135-2 (.500).


No. 5 Las Vegas (10-7) at No. 4 Cincinnati (10-7)

Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow (9) signals touchdown after the Bengals scored.
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow has been a touchdown-maker this season.
(Aaron Doster / Associated Press)

When: Saturday, 1:30 p.m. PT, Channel 4. Line: Bengals by 4½.

How the Raiders can win: The Bengals didn’t want to see this team, especially considering the way Derek Carr is playing. The Cincinnati offensive line is a weakness, and the Raiders’ pass rush is phenomenal. Las Vegas can rush four and drop seven all game.


How the Bengals can win: Let Joe Burrow go to work with Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins on a suspect Raiders secondary. The Bengals need to get their playmakers in space and get them the ball. Let Joe Mixon run to set up the play-action and soften that defensive front.

Pick: The Raiders are scary because they’re capable of pulling off an upset, but Burrow can take advantage of that secondary. BENGALS 27, RAIDERS 21

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Jan. 12, 2022


No. 6 New England (10-7) at No. 3 Buffalo (11-6)

Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen jumps over New England's Devin McCourty during their game in Decemer.
Quarterback Josh Allen has lifted the Bills over Devin McCourty and the Patriots the last time they played.
(Winslow Townson / Associated Press)

When: Saturday, 5:15 p.m. PT, Channel 4. Line: Bills by 4.

How the Patriots can win: The Bills offense can go cold as a Buffalo winter at time, and if there’s any coach who draw up a winning scheme it’s Bill Belichick. Establish the run and take the ball out of Josh Allen’s hands.

How the Bills can win: They can let their dual-threat quarterback go to work, keeping the Patriots honest on defense by tucking the ball and taking off every so often. Let that smothering Buffalo stop the run well enough to force Mac Jones to win it.


Pick: Buffalo’s defense is the real star here. Go with the better quarterback, especially since he’s playing at home. BILLS 28, PATRIOTS 20

Betting lines, odds and picks for Saturday’s NFL wild-card games: Las Vegas Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals and New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills.

Jan. 10, 2022


No. 7 Philadelphia (9-8) at No. 2 Tampa Bay (13-4)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady sets to pass.
Tom Brady led the Buccaneers over the Eagles in October, 28-22, in Philadelphia.
(Jacob Kupferman / Associated Press)

When: Sunday, 10 a.m. PT, Channel 11. Line: Buccaneers by 8½.

How the Eagles can win: Establish the run early. The Eagles have an excellent ground game, and the Tampa Bay run defense hasn’t been as great in recent weeks. Get pressure up the middle on Tom Brady and make him move off his spot.

How the Buccaneers can win: With their first-string secondary finally healthy, the Buccaneers can play man coverage and put an extra defender in the box to slow that Philadelphia run game. Let Tom Brady do what he does, and have someone other than Mike Evans step up.


Pick: Philadelphia might keep this close for a while, but Brady will help the Buccaneers pull away in the second half. BUCCANEERS 27, EAGLES 17

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Feb. 9, 2022


No. 6 San Francisco (10-7) at No. 3 Dallas (12-5)

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo applauds a play.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is seeking to lead a road upset for the second week in a row.
(Jed Jacobsohn / Associated Press)

When: Sunday, 1:30 p.m. PT, Channel 2. Line: Cowboys by 3.

How the 49ers can win: The 49ers are extremely physical and they can establish the run, and that’s what has given the Rams such problems. Jimmy Garoppolo, only somewhat hampered by that injured thumb, needs to avoid the turnovers.

How the Cowboys can win: Let Dak Prescott and his receivers take advantage of the matchups on the outside against that vulnerable San Francisco secondary. On defense, a big game from Micah Parsons would really help.


Pick: Not every home team is going to win this weekend. The 49ers are getting healthy at the right time, and Prescott has been inconsistent. 49ERS 24, COWBOYS 23

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Jan. 9, 2022


No. 7 Pittsburgh (9-7-1) at No. 2 Kansas City (12-5)

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes prepares to throw as he scrambles.
The scrambling ability of Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes makes him difficult to contain.
(Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)

When: Sunday, 5:15 p.m. PT, Channel 4. Line: Chiefs by 12½.

How the Steelers can win: They’re playing with house money because everyone expects the Chiefs to win. Forcing turnovers is huge; for instance, Steelers upset Tennessee by winning the turnover battle, 4-0.

How the Chiefs can win: Take advantage of that porous Pittsburgh offensive line. Let Patrick Mahomes and his receivers overwhelm the Steelers with that blistering speed, just as they did in a 36-10 win a few weeks ago.

Pick: The Chiefs have set aside the turnover problems they had earlier in the season, and they have too much firepower for the Steelers. CHIEFS 30, STEELERS 17


First look: History lesson, current events and matchup prediction for Cardinals at Rams NFC wild-card playoff game next Monday night.

Jan. 10, 2022


No. 5 Arizona (11-6) at No. 4 Rams (12-5)

Rams tight end Tyler Higbee (89) celebrates his touchdown reception with coach Sean McVay.
Rams coach Sean McVay takes advantage of the matchup problems tight end Tyler Higbee (89) creates.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

When: Monday, 5:15 p.m. PT, Channel 7, ESPN. Line: Rams by 3½.

How the Cardinals can win: Let Kyler Murray create havoc with his ability to pull the ball down and run at any moment. Get a big game from the returning J.J. Watt, as protection breakdowns have led to several Matthew Stafford interceptions.

How the Rams can win: Avoid the turnovers. Work Cam Akers into the running game even more. Take advantage of the matchup problems tight end Tyler Higbee creates. Get up early on an opponent who has lost four of five coming into the postseason.

Pick: Before their setback against the 49ers, the Rams had won five in a row for the first time since 2018. Sean McVay has only lost to Arizona once. RAMS 31, CARDINALS 23