The NFC East continues to be maligned by some, but as the Washington Football Team knows all too well, this expanded NFL playoff features a pair of division rivals who have won 12 and 10 games, respectively.
There’s nothing “NFC Least” about the Cowboys and Eagles records. And the WFT knows it…as Washington watches and plots his comeback.
The champ begins a quest for Super Bowl LVI this weekend. SI offers a breakdown of every postseason game in the first round, including, of course, San Francisco at Dallas…
Las Vegas Raiders vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Saturday 4:30 p.m. CT | NBC
The Raiders had four straight wins to close out the year; sources tell us that if they somehow beat the Bengals here, interim coach Rich Bisaccia (the former Dallas assistant) might just keep the job. The challenge? The Joe Burrow-led Bengals (back in the playoffs for the first time since 2015) just beat the Chiefs, and on the road in Week 11 they beat those same Raiders, 32-13. The Bengals are the 5.5-point favorites and the smart pick.
New England Patriots vs. Buffalo Bills
Saturday 8:15 p.m. | SCS
It’s been over 50 years since these AFC East rivals met in the playoffs, but of course they play each other twice a year otherwise – and rightly so, this year they have separated the series from the season. The Patriots are on coach Bill Belichick. The Bills, who won the division, are on a roster full of talent led by QB Josh Allen. Buffalo is a 4-point home favorite and the smart pick.
Philadelphia Eagles vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sunday 1 p.m. | FOX
Is Philly a different team than the Buccaneers beat, 28-22, at the start of the season? Perhaps, in an improved way. Is Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Band Better? The Bucs closed strong, even with their injury and Antonio Brown’s issues. The defending Super Bowl champions are an 8.5-point favorite and the smart pick.
San Francisco 49ers vs. Dallas Cowboys
Sunday 4:30 p.m. | SCS
The 49ers are supposed to play “Bully Ball,” but this idea of a “physical team versus a finesse team” is silly. The leading team can grind it out…and the team that needs to be explosive in the air can do that too. The Cowboys have the No. 1 offense in football and a defense loaded with point guards. Dallas needs precise work from Dak Prescott and needs to understand Deebo Samuel. Dallas – involved in the weekend’s tightest spread as a 3.5-point favorite at home. Despite the flurry of national pundits making the “cute” prediction in favor of the Niners, Dallas is the smart choice.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Sunday 8:15 p.m. | NBC
The Chiefs’ struggles were an early-season mirage. They’ve won nine of the last 10 games and led by QB Patrick Mahomes look quite capable of flipping a switch to reveal their Super Bowl pedigree. The Steelers are big underdogs and they know it — Pittsburgh lost 36-10 to the Chiefs just weeks ago — and they embrace it. How “big”? The Chiefs are favored by 12.5 points and are the smart choice.
Arizona Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Rams
Monday 8:15 p.m. | NBC
This may be the perfect example of how “it’s a QB game”. Arizona’s Kyler Murray is in his first career playoff game; Matthew Stafford is on his fourth — but his first as a Rams quarterback, and no, he’s never won a playoff game. The Rams’ roster seems purpose-built for this, have won nine of their last 10 games against NFC West and are a smart 4-point favorite.