Not only do NFL fans have three nightly games to savor during wild-card weekend, but they can also revel in the rivalries.
AFC East takes on New England and Buffalo, who shared the road wins during the season. NFC opponents West Arizona and the Los Angeles Rams, who also went 1-1.
Plus, San Francisco and Dallas rekindle one of the great postseason series of yesteryear, especially in the 1980s and 90s.
“I’m pretty damn excited, man,” Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said. ‘I hope you are joking? The Dallas-Niners of the early 90s, some of the championship games, for me, coming and watching those, I can hear (John) Madden and (Pat) Summerall talking about it. My first playoff game against Dallas and Niner, I’m pretty excited to do it man. It’s exciting.’
It’s also a tough game to handicap. The Cowboys are the most dynamic side and the 49ers are the most physical group. Dallas prefers to face opponents more like themselves, and San Francisco certainly isn’t.
Dallas has big defensive playmakers who will need to put down All-Pro Deebo Samuel, George Kittle and a solid rushing offense. If All-Pro cornerback Trevon Diggs can work his magic with an interception and DeMarcus Lawrence can pressure Jimmy Garoppolo, the Cowboys could be in business.
But the Niners are more powerful in the trenches.
The 49ers, ranked 10th in the AP Pro32, needed a stellar rally and overtime against the Rams — let’s talk arch-rivals — just to qualify for the playoffs. The No. 5 Cowboys made it through the NFC East, but endured enough inconsistency to make you wonder about their stamina.
Dallas is a 3 1/2 point favorite at home. Seems about right.
No. 14 Pittsburgh (up 12 1/2) at No. 3 Kansas City, Sunday
Even Ben Roethlisberger admits the Steelers are 14th of 14 playoff teams. The Chiefs may be the best.
BEST BET: CHIEFS, 31-15
No. 11 New England (plus 4) at No. 8 Buffalo, Saturday
There’s something unreliable about the Bills this season, pointing to a short playoff stint. Like a game.
SCHOLARSHIP SPECIAL: PATRIOTS, 19-16
No. 12 Las Vegas (plus 5 1/2) at No. 7 Cincinnati, Saturday
Are we the only ones wondering why the Raiders are playing the first game of the weekend? After such a physically and emotionally draining run in the playoffs culminating in that crazy overtime win Sunday night against the Chargers? Are you now traveling east and in the cold?
No. 13 Philadelphia (plus 8 1/2) at No. 2 Tampa Bay, Sunday
Philly went 0-6 against playoff teams but made their way into the playoffs. The 2022 season looks very promising for the Eagles. Sunday no.
No. 9 Arizona (plus 3) vs. No. 6 Los Angeles Rams, Monday night
The most mystifying of the six competitions. If the Cardinals can pressure Matthew Stafford, they could achieve that.
Last week: straight: 10-6. Counter spread: 7-9.
Season: Straight: 180-91-1. Counterspread: 151-118-2.
Best bet: Straight: 11-6-1. Counter spread: 12-6.
Special upset: Straight: 15-2. Counter spread: 15-2.
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