Cowboys chasing first road play-off win in 31 years
Tom Brady is 7-0 against the Cowboys
(01:15 Tues kick-off)
Dallas Cowboys @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Match Odds: 8/11 | 23/20
Spread: Cowboys -2.5
Points O/U: 45.5
A five-star match-up if ever I've seen one, as America's Team head to Tampa to take on Tom Brady, with the GOAT holding a perfect 7-0 record against them.
Dallas also haven't managed a play-off win on the road for 31 years and have lost their last two against Brady - who has only been one-and-done in one of his last 11 play-off appearances.
Still, Dallas are slight favourites with what looks a better side on paper, had a better record this season and at times has sparkled on both sides of the ball - but they've also thrown in some stinkers.
Brady's also had the first losing season of his mind-blowing career, making Tampa Bay just the fourth team with a losing record to make the play-offs - although two of the last three won their wildcard game.
And the Bucs do seem to be trending the right way, with Brady connecting with Mike Evans much more down the stretch while the team are getting crucial players back from injury.
Unless Micah Parsons and the Dallas pass rush gets at Brady, he'll slice open the Cowboys secondary and Evans could have a huge day, but Brady's offensive line has not been the best.
Dak Prescott needs to avoid the turnovers that have plagued his season - 15 interceptions in just 12 games just isn't good enough, and if the Bucs have run-stopping goliath Vita Vea back then it may land on Prescott's shoulders to win this game.
The truth is they're both a bit of a mystery - Dallas should win based on all known form this season, but Tampa Bay may not have been as healthy all year as they are right now.
They also have a running back in 'play-off Lenny' Fournette who had his only 100-yard game of the season against Dallas and saves his best work for the post-season, while in Brady they have the best ever to do it when it matters most.
And in what's likely to be Brady's final game at Raymond James Stadium (as he's a free agent this summer) the 45-year-old will be desperate to put on a show - and when the chips are down he usually delivers.
Throw in former Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett's observations that the Dallas D is slowed and struggles when playing on grass (and Prescott's rating drops 20 points on that surface this season) and I'm leaning towards Brady getting a 36th play-off victory under his belt.
Miami Dolphins @ Buffalo Bills
Match Odds: 11/2 | 1/8
Spread: Bills -13.5
Points O/U: 43.5
Many fancy this as the biggest lock of the weekend with the Dolphins having fallen over the line into the play-offs, missing QB Tua Tagovailoa and possibly starting third-stringer Skylar Thompson.
Only complacency from Buffalo or a huge comedown after the emotional scenes of their last game after the Damar Hamlin situation could stop the Bills from taking this one reasonably comfortably.
The Bills are also play-off regulars now with four straight appearances and Josh Allen has saved some of his very best stuff for the play-offs, with 637 yards and nine TDs in two games last post-season.
Miami are also without Raheem Mostert, who ran for 136 yards against the Bills to keep the last meeting close, so against the second-best home scorers in the league they'll just not be able to keep up.
New York Giants @ Minnesota Vikings
Match Odds: 11/8 | 8/13
Spread: Vikings -3
Points O/U: 47.5
A genuine head-scratcher this one thanks to Minnesota'a frankly ridiculous season where they went an NFL record 11-0 in one score games, started and ended the season in big wins but suffered four blowout losses.
The Giants are playing with house money as they say with a surprise play-off appearance under Brian Daboll, so they can take a free swing here and only lost in this building a few weeks ago thanks to a walk-off 61-yard field goal by Vikes kikcker Greg Joseph.
It's only the fourth match-up of rookie head coaches, with Kevin O'Connell on the home sideline so how both men handle the pressure is another factor to consider.
Kirk Cousins still has to convince and the Vikings are vulnerable on their offensive line and defence, so we are in upset territory if the G-Men can ride Saquon Barkley and get just enough out of Daniel Jones.
So if there's an inkling of an upset but the likelihood is of a tight home win, then we'll cover ourselves by giving the Giants just under a TD head start.
Baltimore Ravens @ Cincinnati Bengals
Match Odds: 7/2 | 2/9
Spread Bengals -8.5
Points O/U 40.5
Lamar Jackson is out, back-up Tyler Huntley may play but has a banged-up throwing shoulder so rookie third-stringer Anthony Brown may start for the Ravens - and that spells danger.
Baltimore's offence fell off a cliff with Jackson's injury - scoring 22 points a game with him and 13 without - so their only hope is to run the ball down Cincy's throat with JK Dobbins, who was rested for the week 18 meeting.
If they can, their defence is good enough to restrict even the talented Joe Burrow, who tossed a team record 35 TDs this season but only two in two meetings with the Ravens - who've allowed the second-fewest reception TDs since week three.
This will be a brutal hitting contest, even out wide as the Bengals receivers have the most yards after the catch in the league, while the Ravens have picked up the second-most pass interference flasg this term so there'll be plenty of action and potentially a few big calls to be made by officials.
I just can't get on board with the big spread in Cincy's favour with any confidence given Baltimore's defence and juust how tough this game will be, but a do fancy the Bengals to get it done especially if they take an early lead.
Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers
Match Odds: 7/2 | 2/9
Spread: 49ers -9.5
Points O/U: 42
It's the third meeting this season between these two with the 49ers pretty dominant in winning the first two - winning three is always tricky though and especially if the Pete Carroll's surprising Seahawks approach this as a free hit with no pressure.
And they do have the rejuvenated Geno Smith who made his first pro Bowl and is now playing his first play-off game in his 10th season of a largely ordinary journeyman career until now. Rookie running back Kenneth Walker also offers a big threat.
The only way the Seahawks win this though is to stop Christian McCaffrey and San Fran's dazzlingly dynamic run game and put it all on rookie QB Brock Purdy, who will make just his sixth start and although he's been brilliant up until now, the play-off pressure hits just that bit harder.
As Mr Irrelevant, Purdy was selected dead last, the 262nd of the 2022 NFL draft and is the lowest drafted rookie to start a play-off game - by all of 110 places!
No rookie QB has ever made the Super Bowl, but Purdy has a great chance due to this team being so good defensively, in the run game, and having George Kittle to throw TDs to - and that's exactly why they'll win this one, but nowhere near as comfortable as the odds suggest.
Los Angeles Chargers @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Match Odds: 3/4 | 11/10
Spread: Chargers -2.5
Points O/U: 47.5
Talented young QBs Justin Herbert and Trevor Lawrence face off as they both make their play-off debuts, and a lot could rest on how they handle the situation in what's a tricky game to call.
The Chargers have a more talented side but we've said that before about them so many time when they've come up short, while the Jags are the youngest squad in the play-offs but have Super Bowl winning head coach Doug Pedersen leading them.
Jacksonville battered the Chargers 38-10 in Week Three in LA, but the Bolts are a lot healthier now and despite the Jags responding from 3-7 with a superb late run, they rather limped into the play-offs against the Titans.
They averaged just 17.7 points a game over the last three and had -1 offensive yards in the crucial fourth quarter against Tennessee and only their defence bailed them out - as it did repeatedly down the stretch.
Jacksonville will need more than that from Lawrence, and this could be a sneaky good game if both QBs find their mojo, but the NFL's top TD scorer Austin Ekeler could be the difference and I'll take Herbert to just do a bit more than his opposite number to get the 'W'.