NEW YORK– One of the most exciting times on the sports calendar arrives this Saturday with Super Wild Card weekend set to kick off the NFL Playoffs. Opening up a superb six-game slate beginning Saturday and concluding Monday night, football fans must buckle up and prepare themselves for a ‘pigskin buffet’.
To start the postseason extravaganza, two games are scheduled for this Saturday January 14th. An NFC showdown with the Seattle Seahawks visiting the San Francisco 49ers, and for the night cap, the AFC side opens with the LA Chargers on the road against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
4:35pm ET on FOX: No. 7 Seattle Seahawks (9-8) @ No. 2 San Francisco 49ers (13-4)
Led by quarterback Geno Smith, and head coach Pete Carroll, the Seahawks enter Saturday as a 9.5-point road underdog against San Francisco with a total set at O/U 41.5.
“Unfortunately, we’re playing the 9ers and they’re loaded, healthy, and on a roll,” Carroll said about the matchup.
The 49ers enter Saturday riding a ten-game winning streak and are 8-2 against the spread (ATS) in that stretch. Though San Francisco torched Seattle in their two regular season division meetings by a combined total of 48-20, defeating a team three times is no easy task.
In fact, teams who have won both division games in a given season, then faced off in the playoffs, are 12-7, 9-9-1 ATS in the Wild Card era.
“I don’t really look at it as you have to beat someone three times,” said 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. “I just look at it as we have to beat them on Saturday. That’s the game, I don’t think the other games have to do with it.”
On the Seattle side: Smith, capped off a career-defining year, becoming the Seahawks franchise leader in single-season passing yards (4,282). But, what made the ten-year QB so effective was his TD/INT ratio, totaling 30 touchdowns with 11 interceptions in 17 games played.
For San Francisco: Mr. Irrelevant, the final selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, QB Brock Purdy is set to make his playoff debut. Purdy finished the regular season with a perfect 5-0 record as a starter, passing for 1,098 yards with 11 TDs and two INTs.
On the betting landscape, since 1990, rookie QBs are 10-17 in the playoffs and on Wild Card weekend 4-7-1 ATS the last 20 years.
PICK: Seahawks +9.5, Over 41.5
8:15pm ET on NBC: No. 5 Los Angeles Chargers (10-7) @ No. 4 Jacksonville Jaguars (9-8)
Slated as 2.5-point favorites, Justin Herbert and the LA Chargers head to Jacksonville to take on Trevor Lawrence’s led Jaguars with the total projected at O/U 47.5.
Two generational quarterbacks in the making, stamping their playoff debuts against one another on primetime? Sign me up.
“I’m excited for this team to get that opportunity to continue to show who we are and have a chance to play again,” Lawrence said leading up to Saturday.
Marking the only matchup on Super Wild Card weekend with both starting quarterbacks surpassing over 4,000 passing yards this season, Herbert vs. Lawrence easily has the potential for the most entertaining game on the slate.
For a brief glimpse into the past, Jacksonville defeated the Chargers 38-10 at Sofi Stadium in Week 3, as Lawrence completed 28/39 for 262 yards and three touchdowns.
“They’re a very good team, offensively and defensively, they’re talented,” Herbert said about the Jaguars. “So, we’re gonna have to look back at our film from Week 3. I believe that didn’t go our way and so, hopefully we’ll have to be better from that…”
“Plenty of film to watch and excited for the opportunity.”
Chargers Side: In the third year of his career, his second paired with head coach Brendon Staley, Herbert has developed into an elite NFL quarterback, totaling 9,753 passing yards with 63 TDs and 25 INTs the last two seasons.
With Keenan Allen, Austin Ekeler, and Mike Williams (questionable) lining up as the Chargers primary targets, expect a flurry of points and productive trips to the red zone. In their last 10 games, Los Angeles is 7-2-1 against the spread, averaging 22.7 points per game.
Jaguars Aspect: Lawrence, selected first overall in the 2021 NFL Draft, has rejuvenated himself into what many believed he was out of Clemson University – the next Andrew Luck caliber of talent behind center.
By becoming a dual threat through the pass and run game under the leadership of head coach Doug Pederson, Lawrence threw for 25 TDs with 8 INTs paired to 291 rushing yards and 5 TDs. Additionally, he targeted three separate receivers for more than 72 receptions throughout 2022 (Christian Kirk, Zay Jones, & Evan Engram)
And as it goes for Pederson, one of five head coaches currently in the playoffs with a Super Bowl ring: Andy Reid, John Harbaugh, Mike McCarthy, Carroll, & Pederson – the Jaguars achieved their first season of nine or more wins since 2017.
Nonetheless, on the betting side, Jacksonville heads into Saturday on a five-game win streak, 4-1 ATS in that span.
PICK: Chargers -2.5, Over 47.5
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Robert Rizzo is a journalist and co-editor of Latino Sports.
Follow on Twitter: @RobertRiz994
Watch Sports with Rich live on Tuesday Nights at 8pm EST on The SLG Network/Youtube with host Rich Mancuso and cohost Robert Rizzo.
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