We were 1-1 on our top NFL picks in Week 18 here at TheRX – winning on Pittsburgh beating Cleveland but still in disbelief that Detroit upset Green Bay – and expect a sweep on Wild Card Weekend. Here are two top picks with NFL odds from the best sportsbooks.
Seattle Seahawks vs. San Francisco 49ers
Saturday, January 14, 2023 – 04:30 PM EST at TIAA Bank Field
FOX has this NFC Wild Card matchup. Note that I only like this at 9.5 – some books like Wynnbet still have it at -10. Also, the weather is going to be a factor in Santa Clara with unusually heavy rainfall in California continuing Saturday. Here’s the weather forecast: “Cloudy with periods of rain. Potential for heavy rainfall. High 58F. Winds S at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 90%. Rainfall near a half an inch.”
San Francisco is much better regardless but those conditions would seem to play into the Niners’ hands in terms of running the ball more. They have two terrific backs: Elijah Mitchell and Christian McCaffrey. Mitchell has been in and out of the lineup this season due to injury but returned again in Week 18 and had 55 yards and two TDs on five carries in a rout of Arizona. McCaffrey might win NFL Comeback Player of the Year and be eighth in the NFL in rushing with 1,139 yards between the Niners and Carolina Panthers.
Seattle has one of the NFL’s worst run defenses, allowing 150.2 rushing yards per game (30th in the league) and 21 rushing touchdowns (27th). San Francisco, meanwhile, ranks second in the league in allowing just 77.7 ypg on the ground, so Hawks RB Kenneth Walker, the likely NFL Offensive Player of the Year, figures to have tough sledding.
Seahawks QB Geno Smith had a career year, also is in contention for NFL Comeback Player of the Year, and will get paid in free agency by the Seahawks or some other team, but Smith has just an 87.9 passer rating in two games against the 49ers this season compared to 102.3 against all other opponents. Smith was No. 1 in the NFL in passing touchdowns thrown at least 15 yards downfield but didn’t have any vs. the Niners, who swept the season series by a combined score of 48-20.
Normally, you worry about a rookie QB making his first-ever playoff start – much less a rookie who was the last overall pick in the draft. But the Niners are 5-0 in Brock Purdy’s five starts and averaging 33.6 points per game. Purdy looks to become the first rookie quarterback to win a postseason game since Seattle’s Russell Wilson in 2012.
Seattle is 1-7 ATS on the NFL picks in its past eight overall. San Francisco covered all eight games vs. the NFC West this season. At the top-rated books, 70% of spread wagers are on the Niners.
NFL pick: 49ers -9.5 (-110) at BetMGM
New York Giants vs. Minnesota Vikings
Sunday, January 15, 2023 – 04:30 PM EST at US Bank Stadium
These are two of seven new playoff teams this postseason. It will mark the fourth playoff game since 1970 featuring two rookie head coaches with the Giants led by Brian Daboll and the Vikings by Kevin O’Connell.
FOX has the Wild Card matchup and rematch of Week 16 also in Minneapolis (every Wild Card game is a regular-season rematch in a rarity). The Vikings beat the Giants that day 27-24 on Greg Joseph’s franchise-record 61-yard field goal as time expired.
T.J. Hockenson had a career-high 13 catches for 109 yards and two touchdowns from Kirk Cousins, who threw for a third score to Justin Jefferson with three minutes to go and an eight-point lead. However, the Giants tied it with two minutes left on a Saquon Barkley 27-yard TD run and a two-point conversion before Joseph’s heroics.
That was one of Minnesota’s NFL-record 11 one-score victories and this quite likely will be close again, so I’m taking the moneyline because betting on a spread of 3 simply isn’t wise with the push possibility.
While Daboll has done a fantastic job and deserves to win NFL Coach of the Year, the Vikings simply have more talent across the board led by Jefferson, who is going to win Offensive Player of the Year. Jefferson led the NFL with 128 catches and 1,809 receiving yards. With 91 yards Sunday, he becomes the sixth player in NFL history with at least 1,900 in a single season, including playoffs. Jefferson had 12 catches for 133 yards and that TD in the first meeting with New York.
Cousins has plenty of playoff experience and has been pretty good in the postseason: In three career starts, he has four touchdowns (three passing, one rushing) with a 91.0 rating. In the regular season, Cousins passed for 4,547 yards and 29 touchdowns and became the fifth player ever to record at least 25 TD passes in at least eight consecutive seasons.
In my mind, the Giants are just happy to be here and their season already was a success. The Vikings have bigger plans and will win at home barring major injury. Their only home loss was to a very good Dallas team.
NFL pick: Vikings ML (-162) at Caesars Sportsbook