/N.F.L. Playoff Predictions: Our Picks in the Wild-Card Round – The New York Times

N.F.L. Playoff Predictions: Our Picks in the Wild-Card Round – The New York Times


Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City, 8:15 p.m., NBC

Line: Kansas City -12.5 | Total: 46

One could argue that the Steelers (9-7-1) are the luckiest team in the postseason, as they benefited from the Colts’ inexplicable Week 18 breakdown against the Jaguars to sneak into the playoffs. That magic — and Ben Roethlisberger’s N.F.L. career — should end against Kansas City (12-5), which blew out Pittsburgh by 26 points in Week 16.

Kansas City Coach Andy Reid anticipates Tyreek Hill (heel), and running backs Darrel Williams (toe) and Clyde Edwards-Helaire (shoulder) to all play. Sure, Kansas City underwhelmed in its season-ending win against the Broncos, but nothing in Pittsburgh’s recent performances points to the Steelers being more than a bump in the road. Pick: Kansas City -12.5

Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams, 8:15 p.m., ESPN

Line: Rams -4 | Total: 49.5

The best team in the N.F.L. through October, the Cardinals (11-6) have lost four of their last five games and relinquished home-field advantage, and they now must travel to face the division-rival Rams (12-5). Arizona may get some much-needed help if J.J. Watt, who returned to practice this week after a three-month absence, is available, though his status is still uncertain. Receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who has a knee injury and hasn’t played since Week 14, will not be available.

Matthew Stafford finished the season tied for first in the league in interceptions (17), and his decision-making will be examined with microscopic scrutiny as the playoffs progress, given the draft capital General Manager Les Snead gave up to Detroit to trade for him. But at least for the first round, he can count on the Cardinals’ errors to be more damaging: Arizona has been flagged for at least six penalties in each game during a five-game stretch, and has fumbled an egregious 17 center-quarterback snaps this season. Pick: Rams -4

A quick primer for those who are not familiar with betting lines: Favorites are listed next to a negative number that represents how many points they must win by to cover the spread. Raiders -5.5, for example, means that Las Vegas must beat Chicago by at least 6 points for its backers to win their bet. Gamblers can also bet on the total score, or whether the teams’ combined score in the game is over or under a preselected number of points.

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