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PFT’s NFL wild-card 2023 picks

Mike Florio and Charean Williams weigh in on which QB making their first playoff start is most trustworthy, which underdog they’re most confident in and the best possible Super Bowl matchup.

It’s wild-card weekend. Actually, the league would prefer that we call it “super wild-card weekend.” Which is something I won’t do, largely because they want me to do it.

I also don’t want to call it wild-card weekend either, because it’s not. It used to be, with teams that didn’t win their divisions (the fourth and fifth seeds) playing each other. In 1990, the field expanded to six, with one division winner in each conference facing the last team in. In 2002, realignment resulted in two division winners playing two wild cards.

Now, it’s three and three. So it’s really not wild-card weekend anymore. It’s just the first round of the playoffs.

And so here are our picks for the first round of the playoffs.

By the way, last week, I went 11-5. MDS went 12-4.

I finished the regular season at 178-91-2. MDS went 169-100-2.

Seahawks (+10) at 49ers

MDS’s take: How many people predicted before the season that Geno Smith vs. Brock Purdy would be a playoff matchup? Smith leading the Seahawks to the playoffs has been a great story, but the story comes to an end on Sunday, when the 49ers’ defense will shut Smith down, but Purdy and the 49ers’ offense should have a big game.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 30, Seahawks 13.

Florio’s take: The 49ers are the better team. But the Seahawks aren’t intimidated by the best team in football, given that they know each other well. The weather will help keep it close, but the 49ers should make it to the next round.

Florio’s pick: 49ers 27, Seahawks 21.

Chargers (-2) at Jaguars

MDS’s take: It’s great news in Jacksonville that they’re hosting a playoff game in Trevor Lawrence’s second year and Doug Pederson’s first. But Justin Herbert is going to have a big game in his playoff debut as the Chargers win.

MDS’s pick: Chargers 27, Jaguars 20.

Florio’s take: Jacksonville destroyed the Chargers in Week Three. And that was before the Jaguars evolved into the team they now are -- balanced, effective, confident, successful. Throw in the fact that they’re the underdogs, and that should be enough to push them over the top.

Florio’s pick: Jaguars 24, Chargers 21.

Dolphins (+13) at Bills

MDS’s take: If Tua Tagovailoa were healthy, this would be an intriguing first-round matchup. Without Tua, it’s hard to see the Dolphins even keeping it close against a Bills team that is strong in all phases of the game.

MDS’s pick: Bills 28, Dolphins 13.

Florio’s take: Josh Allen vs. Skylar Thompson. Sometimes, you don’t need to say anything more.

Florio’s pick: Bills 34, Dolphins 17.

Giants (+3) at Vikings

MDS’s take: Brian Daboll getting that roster to the playoffs was a great coaching achievement, but the Giants’ run ends on Sunday. The Vikings have been winning close games all year, and they’ll do it again.

MDS’s pick: Vikings 21, Giants 20.

Florio’s take: For as long as they are alive in the playoffs, the Vikings will either win by 2-4 points or lose by 20-40.

Florio’s pick: Vikings 24, Giants 22.

Ravens (+8.5) at Bengals

MDS’s take: If Lamar Jackson were 100 percent healthy, I’d be tempted to pick the Ravens to pull the upset. Without Jackson, the Bengals should cruise to a win.

MDS’s pick: Bengals 28, Ravens 17.

Florio’s take: The Bengals have a boulder on their shoulder over the way the rules were changed, and not changed, regarding following the cancellation of the Week 17 game against the Bills. They took it out on the Ravens in Week 18. They’ll do it again in the opening round of the playoffs.

Florio’s pick: Bengals 30, Ravens 20.

Cowboys (-2.5) at Buccaneers

MDS’s take: The Cowboys’ performance in Week 18 didn’t inspire a lot of confidence, but I expect them to play well enough to beat a Buccaneers team that didn’t inspire a lot of confidence all season.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 20, Buccaneers 16.

Florio’s take: Tom Brady has 47 career playoff games. This one will be number 48. Win or lose, it’s quite possibly his last game in Tampa. The Cowboys, meanwhile, look like they peaked too soon. Why are they favored?

Florio’s pick: Buccaneers 19, Cowboys 16.