Hot rivalries add spice to NFL’s wild-card weekend

AP pro picks

Not only do NFL fans get three night games to savor during wild-card weekend, but they also can revel in the rivalries.

AFC East foes New England and Buffalo, who split victories on the road during the season. NFC West opponents Arizona and the Los Angeles Rams, who also went 1-1 against each other.

Plus San Francisco and Dallas rekindling one of the great postseason series of bygone days, particularly in the 1980s and ’90s.

It’s a difficult matchup to handicap. The Cowboys are the more dynamic side, and the 49ers are the more physical group.

Dallas prefers to face opponents built more in its image, and San Francisco most definitely isn’t.

Dallas has some big-time playmakers on defense who will need to clamp down on All-Pro Deebo Samuel, George Kittle and a solid rushing attack. If All-Pro cornerback Trevon Diggs can work his magic with an interception and DeMarcus Lawrence can get pressure on Jimmy Garoppolo, the Cowboys could be in business.

But the Niners are more powerful in the trenches.

Dallas is a 3¢-point favorite at home. Sounds about right. Cowboys, 23-20

The other picks:

No. 14 Pittsburgh (+12¢) at No. 3 Kansas City, Sunday: Even Ben Roethlisberger admits the Steelers are 14th out of 14 playoff teams. The Chiefs might be the best. BEST BET: Chiefs, 31-15

No. 11 New England (+4) at No. 8 Buffalo, Saturday: There’s something unreliable about the Bills this season, indicating a short playoff stay. Like one game. UPSET SPECIAL: Patriots, 19-16

No. 12 Las Vegas (+5¢) at No. 7 Cincinnati, Saturday: Are we the only ones wondering why the Raiders are playing in the first game of the weekend? After such a physically and emotionally exhausting path into the postseason culminating with that wild Sunday night overtime victory against the Chargers? Now traveling east and into the cold weather? Bengals, 26-17

No. 13 Philadelphia (+8¢) at No. 2 Tampa Bay, Sunday: Philly went 0-6 against playoff teams, yet made its way into the playoffs. The 2022 season looks very promising for the Eagles. Sunday does not. Buccaneers, 30-20

No. 9 Arizona (+3) at No. 6 Los Angeles Rams, Monday night: The most mystifying of the six contests. If the Cardinals can put pressure on Matthew Stafford, they could pull it off. Rams, 20-19


Last Week: Straight up: 10-6. Against spread: 7-9.

Season: Straight up: 180-91-1. Against spread: 151-118-2.

Best Bet: Straight up: 11-6-1. Against spread: 12-6.

Upset Special: Straight up: 15-2. Against spread: 15-2.


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