The NFL Playoffs are here! It seems like only a few weeks ago that the season was in its early days, and now just 14 teams remain. This Saturday, we’ll see one Wild Card game from each conference, starting in San Francisco and ending in Jacksonville. The 49ers are currently 9.5-point favorites over the visiting Seahawks, while the host Jaguars are 2-point underdogs against the L.A. Chargers.
Saturday 1:30 PST – Seahawks at 49ers
The postseason will kick off with the third meeting this season between the surprising Seahawks and the red-hot 49ers. Seattle lost both prior games this year by a combined score of 48-20, so it’s no wonder they’re such large underdogs on the road this week. In order to have a chance, they’ll have to limit their mistakes to basically zero. Last time these teams faced off, a Travis Homer fumble and a dropped interception from Quandre Diggs were huge turning points in what ended up being a one score game.
Offensively, they’ll need a big day from Kenneth Walker. Pete Carroll’s teams are always more dangerous when they get the ground attack going and this year is no different. On the other side of the ball, getting to getting to Brock Purdy and containing Christian McCaffrey should be the main concerns. Even with Purdy’s excellent play, he’s still a rookie quarterback playing in his first ever playoff game. If Seattle can rattle him early, it may take him a while to bounce back.
For the Niners, it’s all about spreading the ball out on offence. If Purdy can get the ball out to Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk, Eli Mitchell and McCaffrey, good things should happen. Ideally, the run game will be dominant enough to set up the pass game for Purdy, but if not, expect to see the 49ers get the rock to their stars in a variety of creative ways. On defence, they’ll be looking to stick to what they’ve been doing. Seattle has scored just one offensive touchdown in two games against this unit. They’re one of the best in the league, and if they can show it, Seattle will have a very hard time matching San Francisco’s offensive output.
Overall, the 49ers are big favorites for good reason. However, with this being a game between two division rivals and Pete Carroll having a team with nothing to lose, it’s hard to imagine a blowout. We’ll take the Seahawks to keep it close enough to cover the spread.
Saturday 5:30 PST – Chargers at Jaguars
In the second game of the day, the Chargers will go up against the Jaguars for the second time this season as two point favourites. The first meeting between the teams was in Week 3, where the Jags beat up on a depleted Chargers team and won 38-10. Heading into this game, however, things are very different.
Before a meaningless loss in Week 18, the Chargers had won 5 of 6 games to clinch a spot in the postseason. Offensively, the team was finally healthy and seemed to be firing on all cylinders. Although it looks like Mike Williams won’t play on Saturday night, L.A.’s offence can still be the difference maker in the game against Jacksonville. With Justin Herbert, Austin Ekeler and Keenan Allen all ready to go, the Chargers have one of the most dangerous QB-RB-WR combos in the playoffs. Without Williams, Herbert may look to get Ekeler even more involved in the passing game than usual.
On defence, it’ll be up to Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack to disrupt the game. So often, close playoff contests come down to the trenches and the Chargers will be looking to win that battle with their two dominant defensive linemen. If the line can eliminate the threat of Travis Etienne and harass Trevor Lawrence, the Jags may run into some issues trying to move the ball, regardless of how good the offence has looked recently.
If Jacksonville’s offensive line holds up, however, watch out. Lawrence has a variety of playmakers he can use in this offence including Etienne, Christian Kirk, Zay Jones and Evan Engram. With the Jaguars also being the home team, momentum will certainly move in their favor if this offence can move the ball. In this game between two teams with little playoff experience and two quarterbacks with none, it’s tough to know who will rise to the occasion. For this pick, we’ll make it simple and go with the QB we just have a little more faith in. Yes, Lawrence has been great in the last two months, but it’s time for Justin Herbert to show why he’s one of the most exciting young quarterbacks in the game right now.
Seahawks +9.5 / Chargers -2.0
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