2023 NFL divisional playoff picks: Giants shock Eagles, Cowboys upset 49ers, Bengals stun Bills

2023 NFL divisional playoff picks: Giants shock Eagles, Cowboys upset 49ers, Bengals stun Bills

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I’d like to start things off today by apologizing to the NFL. When they decided to change the name of “Wild Card Weekend” to “Super Wild Card Weekend,” I thought it was going to be the biggest marketing failure since Crystal Clear Pepsi, but I was wrong, because the football we got over the weekend was Super Wild. 

That being said, if anyone from Pepsi is reading, can you bring back the crystal clear stuff, because I actually liked it. One thing I don’t like though is trying to pick games in the divisional round. The key to picking divisional games is to not overthink it, which could be tough for me because I overthink everything. I mean, I once spent four days thinking over a chess move and I wasn’t even playing anyone.

The reason you don’t want to overthink things in the divisional round is because the home team usually dominates. Over the past 10 years, home teams have gone 29-11, which basically means we’re getting an average of roughly one upset per year, which means I should probably pick at least one upset this week. 

On the other hand, home teams went 1-3 last year, so maybe I need to get wild and pick all upsets. Crap. I literally just told myself not to overthink my picks this week and here we are, one paragraph later, and I’m already overthinking them. 

So will I actually pick any upsets this week? Let’s get to the picks and find out. 

Actually, before we get to the picks, here’s a quick reminder that you can check out the weekly picks from every CBSSports.com NFL expert by clicking here. If you click over, you’ll notice that I went 5-1, which I would brag about, but I can’t, because two of our guys went 6-0. 

If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to hang out with me and watch football, then make sure you head to our Pick Six YouTube page. I go live on YouTube with Will Brinson and Ryan Wilson after every playoff game and it’s a good place to make fun me for missing picks.  

Alright, I’m going to quit stalling so we can get to the picks. 

Divisional round picks

No. 4 Jacksonville (10-8) at No. 1 Kansas City (14-3)

Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET (NBC) 

Featured Game | Kansas City Chiefs vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

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I think I’ve said this before, but I’m going to say it again, there are three guarantees in life: Death, taxes and Andy Reid winning off the bye. Since I’m not dead and I haven’t paid taxes since 2001, I don’t know much about those first two things, but I do know enough to never pick against Reid when his team is coming off a bye. 

In his 24-year coaching career, Reid is 28-5 coming off a bye, including playoff games. He’s been so unbeatable that Ryan Wilson, Will Brinson and I once wrote a song about it. However, as you’ll notice below, we didn’t put much effort into singing it or writing it, and it’s not very catchy. 

Hopefully, Rihanna will sing our song at the Super Bowl halftime show so that America will finally be able fully appreciate our musical genius. 

As for Reid’s success off the bye, if you only include the games where Reid has had Patrick Mahomes, then he’s actually even better. Mahomes has a career record of 9-1 off the bye and the Chiefs have averaged 30.1 points in those 10 games. 

Of course, if there’s one person who can beat Andy Reid coming off a bye, it might just be Doug Pederson and that’s because he knows Reid better than anyone. The Jaguars coach spent 10 years with Reid, including three as a player in Green Bay (1997-99) and seven as an assistant coach (Philadelphia (2009-12) and Kansas City (2013-15). In short, Pederson is not going to be intimidated going into Kansas City and he’s not going be intimidated by the fact that people are writing songs about Andy Reid.

The Jaguars have enough firepower to keep this close as long as Trevor Lawerence doesn’t do anything crazy, you know, like throw four interceptions in the first half. Although I think the Jags will be able to hang with the Chiefs, I can’t pick the upset here. My main issue with the Jags is that their biggest weakness on defense is stopping tight ends and that’s not a weakness you want to have when you’re facing Kansas City’s offense. 

The Jaguars surrendered 1,087 receiving yards to tight ends this year and 13.1 yards per reception to tight ends, which were both the third-worst in the NFL. Travis Kelce might have 300 receiving yards by the time this game is over. If the Jags go all-out trying to shut down Kelce, then that will almost certainly open other things up for everyone else on the Chiefs’ offense. The Jags are going to have to pick their poison and it’s going to lead to a slow death, which brings me back to my original point: The only things guaranteed in life are death and Andy Reid winning off the bye, and taxes, I guess, but only if you actually pay them. (And if anyone from the IRS is reading this, I actually love paying taxes. It’s literally one of my three favorite things about living in this country).

THE PICK: Chiefs 31-24 over Jaguars
Record picking JAX-KC games this season: 1-0
Record picking Jaguars games this season: 8-10
Record picking Chiefs games this season: 16-1

No. 6 N.Y. Giants (10-7-1) at No. 1 Philadelphia (14-3)

Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET (Fox)

Featured Game | Philadelphia Eagles vs. New York Giants

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On paper, this game seems like it could turn into a blowout: The Eagles have the better offense, the better defense and a healthy Jalen Hurts is better than Daniel Jones. And as I said earlier, I am NOT going to overthink things this week and the most notable thing about this game is that these two teams have already played twice this season with the Giants getting outscored 70-38. 

When two division rivals meet in the playoffs, I don’t necessarily pay attention to what happened during the regular season, but in this game, it’s kind of hard to ignore. The Eagles blew out the Giants twice this year with wins of 48-22 and 22-16, and yes, I count that second score as a blowout because it was 19-3 midway through the fourth quarter.

Apparently, it’s supposed to be tough to beat a team three times in one season, but I wanted to find that out for myself, so I decided to actually do some research (This actually just involves me emailing our research department, so there’s not really too much work involved on my end, so don’t feel sorry for me). 

Anyway, since 1970, a total of 24 teams have gone 2-0 against a divisional opponent in the regular season and then faced them again in the playoffs and those 24 teams have gone 15-9 in the third game, which means 62.5% of the teams have finished the three-game sweep, but that also means that the 0-2 team has won the third game 37.5% of the time, and I think what I’m trying to say here is that I just did all that research for nothing, because that’s not enough information to help me pick this game. 

The Eagles are a huge favorite, but I’m not sure if I can trust them right now due mainly to the fact that I watched them play three straight bad games to end the season. 

  • Week 16: Eagles lose 40-34 to the Cowboys. Yes, Gardner Minshew was starting, but he doesn’t play defense and the defense got gashed for 40 points by the Cowboys. 
  • Week 17: Eagles lose 20-10 to the Saints. In this spot, they lost a home game to a team that eventually finished the season with a losing record. That’s not ideal. 
  • Week 18: Eagles beat Giants 22-16. With the the No. 1 seed in the NFC on the line, the Eagles barely beat a Giants team that was resting nearly all of its starters. I repeat, the Eagles struggled against the Giants backups. I know I listed this game as a “blowout” a little bit earlier, but I’m now retracting that statement. As we all know, I’m allowed one retraction per picks column.  

By the time this game kicks off, Jalen Hurts will have only played one game over the past month and he didn’t look good in that game. Also, during the Eagles blowout win in Week 14, the Giants were missing three starters — DL Leonard Williams, CB Adoree’ Jackson, S Xavier McKinney — who all could have a huge impact this week. I mean, just look at what Jackson did to Justin Jefferson during the wild-card round. 

If he pulls that off against A.J. Brown, the Eagles will be in trouble. 

I’m not saying the Giants are this year’s team of destiny, but it’s kind of starting to feel that way. The last THREE times the Giants have won their opening round playoff game, they’ve ended up in the Super Bowl and I’m going to say they take one step closer on Saturday night by shocking the Eagles. 

THE PICK: Giants 23-20 over Eagles
Record picking NYG-PHI games this season: 2-0
Record picking Giants games this season: 10-7-1 
Record picking Eagles games this season: 11-6

No. 3 Cincinnati (13-4) at No. 2 Buffalo (14-3)

Sunday, 3 p.m. ET (CBS)

Featured Game | Buffalo Bills vs. Cincinnati Bengals

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There’s a good chance we could see one of the most emotional pregames in NFL history before these two teams kickoff on Sunday. This game will be played exactly 20 days after Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest on the field in Cincinnati in what was one of the most frightening moments in NFL history. 

With Hamlin out of the hospital and now back in Buffalo, it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see him make an appearance at Highmark Stadium this week for what could easily end up being the best game of the divisional round. If we don’t count the six minutes of football that these two teams played on Jan. 2 — and let’s not — then this will be the first meeting ever between Joe Burrow and Josh Allen. 

If you like offensive fireworks, then this is the game for you: Both teams ranked in the top eight in the NFL in points per game, offensive yards per game and passing yards per game during the regular season. Although the Bengals offense struggled against the Ravens in the wild-card round, I’m not sure I would read too much into that. Joe Burrow struggled against AFC North teams this year, but he dominated everyone else he played. Here’s a look at how Burrow has done in the Bengals’ 17 games, including the playoffs: 

  • Joe Burrow vs. AFC North teams (4-3): 257.9 passing yards per game, 13 TD, 9 INT
  • Burrow vs. Non-AFC North teams (9-1): 287.9 passing yards per game, 23 TD, 3 INT

What this means is that teams that aren’t used to playing Burrow are getting destroyed by Burrow. The Bills got a small taste of that in Week 17. Although the stats don’t count, Burrow had a perfect QB rating (158.3) after starting 4 of 4 for 52 yards and a TD. 

Of course, it’s also worth noting that the Bills also beat up on non-divisional teams. The difference is that Allen wasn’t necessarily a better QB in those games. 

  • Josh Allen vs. AFC East teams (5-2): 269.3 passing yards per game, 15 TD, 5 INT
  • Allen vs. Non-AFC East teams (9-1): 250 passing yards per game, 23 TD, 11 INT

The problem with Allen is that he has been turnover machine this year. Besides his 16 interceptions, he’s also lost six fumbles, and although I’m not good at math, I do know that 16 plus six equals 22, which was the most turnovers by ANY quarterback in the NFL this year. 

Not only has Burrow had fewer turnovers, but he’s also been an objectively better in the fourth quarter this year. 

I think what I’m trying to say here is that if we’re only looking at the 2022 season, the quarterback I trust more in this game is Burrow. 

That being said, even if I trust Burrow more, the Bengals could still be in some trouble this week and that’s because they just lost their starting left tackle (Jonah Williams). Through the first 16 weeks of the season, the Bengals were one of just two teams in the NFL that started the same offensive line in every game, but after losing Williams, they’ve now lost three starters over the past three weeks, which could make things dicey (They’ve also lost right tackle La’el Collins and right guard Alex Cappa). Cappa and Williams are both “Week-to-Week,” but it seems unlikely that they’re going to play. 

The Bengals are 0-3 this year when Burrow gets sacked five or more times, but 13-1 when he’s sacked fewer than five times, which means they just need to make sure that the revamped offensive line is functioning well enough so that Burrow doesn’t spend the entire game running for his life. 

The last time these two teams played each other in January came at the end of the 1988 season when they met in the AFC Championship, which seems kind of fitting, since the winner of this game will be headed to the AFC Championship. 

Burrow has NEVER lost in the month of January (6-0) in his career, so I feel like I have to roll with him here. 

THE PICK: Bengals 27-24 over Bills
Record picking Bengals games this season: 13-4 
Record picking Bills games this season: 14-3

No. 5 Dallas (13-5) at No. 2 San Francisco (14-4)

Sunday, 6 p.m. ET (Fox)

Featured Game | San Francisco 49ers vs. Dallas Cowboys

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This is a rematch from last year’s postseason, although I’m guessing that most Cowboys fans don’t remember that game because they’ve already repressed the memory to a dark corner of their brain. Even if Cowboys fans don’t remember it, Mike McCarthy definitely does and that’s because everyone on the internet basically spent six straight months making fun of McCarthy and the Cowboys for the way the game ended.

If you need a reminder on how that game ended, here’s a quick refresher: 

The Cowboys had no timeouts and no way to stop the clock, but they still called a QB draw with 14 seconds left. People on the internet don’t unite on much, but they definitely united to make fun of that call. In a sense, America’s team brought America together, but I’m guessing that’s not how they wanted to do it. 

The crazy thing about this game is that there’s definitely a chance that it could turn into an offensive shootout. Since Week 7, these have been the TWO HIGHEST SCORING teams in the NFL and that mainly has to do with the fact that both teams had something big happen that week: The 49ers traded for Christian McCaffrey while Dak Prescott returned from his injury. 

Although this game could turn into a shootout, it also could turn into a defensive struggle and that’s because both of these teams rank in the top five for fewest points allowed during the 2022 season. 

The most fascinating coaching matchup in this game definitely involves Kyle Shanahan’s offense going up against Dan Quinn’s defense. I swear, any time those two guys are on the same field together, something crazy happens. I’m sure everyone remembers the Falcons’ epic collapse in Super Bowl LI. In that game, the Falcons head coach was Quinn while the offensive coordinator was Shanahan, so I guess we’re going to finally find out who we should blame for Atlanta’s collapse. 

The 49ers have been one of the best teams in the NFL this year, but I’m still not sure how they’re going to look against a good team. The 49ers had the easiest strength of schedule in the NFL this year and half their wins came in a bad division (Including the playoffs, they went 7-0 against NFC West teams and 7-4 against everyone else). Also, since Brock Purdy took over the starting job, the 49ers haven’t really been tested because they haven’t really faced any good teams. Purdy has looked great, but he faced five teams in the regular season that finished with a combined record of 35-49-1. 

Last year, the 49ers were the underdog and I picked them to upset the Cowboys. This year, I’m doing the opposite. Only four rookie quarterbacks — Shaun King, Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, Mark Sanchez — have ever made it to a conference title game and I don’t think Purdy is going to be the fifth. 

And you know what, I’ll even say this things ends with a game-winning field goal from the guy (Brett Maher) who can’t make an extra point. 

THE PICK: Cowboys 34-31 over 49ers
Record picking Cowboys games this season: 10-8
Record picking 49ers games this season: 13-5

Last Week

Best pick: Last week, I predicted that the Jaguars would pull off an upset win over the Chargers and guess what happened? The Jaguars pulled off an upset win over the Chargers. Now, did I know that the Chargers were going to choke away a 27-point lead during one of the biggest meltdowns in NFL playoff history? Of course, I did.

This is the Chargers we’re talking about and there’s no team better than them at epic collapses, except maybe the Falcons, but we can argue that another time. I was so sure the Chargers would find a new, fantastic way to lose that I might have willed it into existence. 

I mean, just look at what I wrote about the game last week, “This could be the craziest game of the wild-card round… I just have this sinking feeling that the Chargers are going to find a way to Charger things up… I’m not exactly sure what will happen, but whatever it is, we’ll all feel sorry for the Chargers when it happens, and it will only get more awkward when Jaxson De Ville celebrates the miscue while wearing a speedo.”

The only thing I missed on was Jaxson De Ville celebrating in a speedo, so to make up for that, here’s Jaxson De Ville in a speedo.  

As this tweet notes, the Jaguars didn’t start to turn around their season until their mascot started wearing a speedo. Maybe all mascots should wear speedos. 

Worst pick: I only missed one pick during the wild-card round and that was because I decided to take the Buccaneers over the Cowboys for some reason. If you watched the Buccaneers play at all this season, it was pretty clear that their offense was horrible and that they had no shot of winning in the playoffs. However, I talked myself into believing that Tom Brady could somehow will them to a win, but I was wrong. I would say this was Brady’s biggest loss of the week, but I’d probably also be wrong about that since this also happened. 

The moral of the story here is that you should never pick a team to win if their quarterback just lost out on 1.1 million shares of something. 

Picks record

Straight up in wild-card round: 5-1
SU overall in playoffs: 5-1
Against the spread in wild-card round: 3-3
ATS overall in playoffs: 3-3

Final 2022 regular season record
Straight-up:
 165-105-1 
Against the spread: 129-133-9


You can find John Breech on Facebook or Twitter and if he’s not doing one of those things, he’s probably doing his taxes. 

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