Welcome to wild-card weekend. All six playoff games (including the first-ever Monday night playoff game in the NFL) feature the home team as the favorite. Despite these spreads being a bit tough, I think I can deliver the goods.

I finished 36-39-1 for the season after going 3-2 in Week 17, my final week of the regular season picking games. I sat out Week 18.

Saturday at 4:30 p.m.: Las Vegas Raiders (10-7) at Cincinnati Bengals (10-7)
The Line: Cincinnati -5.5

To finish 10-7, Las Vegas had to come on like gangbusters after getting slapped around in Kansas City, 48-9, on Dec. 12, which dropped it to 6-7. The Raiders somehow pulled off a four-game winning streak, beating the Browns and Colts on the road and taking care of business on their home field against the Broncos and Chargers. So, you have to respect their persistence.

The Raiders and Bengals met earlier this season in Vegas Nov. 21, with Cincinnati prevailing, 32-13. In late November, the Bengals had two lopsided wins against the Raiders and Steelers. They then lost back-to-back games at home — 41-22 to the Chargers and 26-23 in overtime to the 49ers. But you have to like the way they won three of their last four (against the Broncos in Denver and at home against the Ravens and Chiefs). Only after clinching the AFC North did they lose to the Browns in Cleveland in a meaningless game.

You have to love the firepower Joe Burrow has at his disposal in Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd and Joe Mixon. I just think the Bengals have too many weapons for the Raiders to handle.

The Pick: CINCINNATI 29, Las Vegas 19

Saturday at 8:15 p.m.: New England Patriots (10-7) at Buffalo Bills (11-6)
The Line: Buffalo -4

For any NFL fan who doesn’t root for the Patriots, this game might as well be headlined, “Welcome To How The Rest Of Us Live.” Translated, this is what happens when you show you are human, losing three of your last four as well as your grasp on home-field advantage.

For the Bills, this is the way champions play in taking advantage of a rival’s missteps. No question the Bills didn’t have a consistent or dominating season, but when push came to shove, they were able to win three of their last four and grab home-field advantage for the first two rounds. I think the Bills’ tough defense will provide a rude awakening for rookie quarterback Mac Jones. Temperatures are supposed to drop down to 4 degrees.

The Pick: BUFFALO 23, New England 14

Sunday at 1 p.m.: Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-4)
The Line: Tampa Bay -8.5

I am a fan of Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni — I like what I see regarding how he treats his players and how he coaches his team. His squad was playing better when it needed to step up, a positive sign for a young coach. Still, the Eagles are swimming with the sharks in this tussle. One point of interest — the only over-.500 team the Eagles beat this season was New Orleans back on Nov. 21, and the Saints only finished over .500 because of their win against the Falcons in the final game of the season.

While I think the Eagles keep it close early, this game has all the makings of a not-quite-ready-for-prime-time team that beats itself a couple too many times to cover the 8.5 points. Give me the 12-5 Bucs going away late.

The Pick: TAMPA BAY 30, Philadelphia 16

Sunday at 4:30 p.m.: San Francisco 49ers (10-7) at Dallas Cowboys (12-5)
The Line: Dallas -3

Dallas is only a three-point favorite in this one, a great show of respect by the oddsmakers for San Francisco, which went through an up-and-down, injury-plagued season. I thought this would be more like a 5.5- or 6-point spread. On Nov. 15, the 49ers went into their game against the Rams at just 3-5. They won that game as part of a 7-2 run to the wire, swooping in and taking one of the NFC’s wild-card spots.

The Cowboys are pretty darn good, finishing the season 12-5 with Dak Prescott really looking like a top-tier quarterback. The 1-2 punch at running back of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard is as good as it gets. Prescott’s receiving corps of Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and Cedrick Wilson is tough to contain, and if that weren’t enough weaponry, tight ends Dalton Schultz and Blake Jarwin can come up with the big third-down catches.

Having just built up the Cowboys, I keep coming back to the 7-2 run the 49ers just pulled off and think they can keep this one very close and maybe pull off what the oddsmakers have deemed as not that huge an upset.

The Pick: Dallas 26, SAN FRANCISCO 24

Sunday at 8:15 p.m.: Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (12-5)
The Line: Kansas City -12.5

I’ll make this one quick. The 12.5 number doesn’t scare me in the least. The Steelers won two games this year against the banged-up Ravens by a total of four points. They beat the Browns — also banged up — by a total of 17 points. That means they were just 5-7-1 against the rest of their opponents.

The Chiefs and Steelers got after it the day after Christmas with the homestanding Chiefs stomping on the Steelers, 36-10. I cannot study this game long enough to figure out a way for the Steelers to cover. I’ll give Big Ben a few more points, but I think the Chiefs stick it to the Steelers again.

The Pick: KANSAS CITY 37, Pittsburgh 16

Monday at 8:15 p.m.: Arizona Cardinals (11-6) at Los Angeles Rams (12-5)
The Line: Los Angeles -4

These two teams split their season series, with the Cardinals winning, 37-20, back on Oct. 3 in Los Angeles, and then the Rams turned the tables with a 30-23 win on Dec. 13 in Arizona. But they also appear to be teams heading in the opposite directions. The Rams went 5-1 down the stretch to pull the division’s top spot away from the Cardinals. For their part, the Cardinals regressed significantly, going just 1-4 during their last five to finish at 11-6. That means they were 10-2 at one point before the wheels came off the wagon.

While I don’t think the Rams are a great football team, the massive difference in the direction these two ships are heading makes me think Matthew Stafford and Co. will keep the Cardinals skidding into the offseason.

The Pick: LOS ANGELES 29, Arizona 20

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox

Stan Charles

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