Below are my confidence level straight up picks for the Wild Card weekend. My 2022 picks with a confidence level of 1-5 ended the regular season with a 119-64-1 (65.0 percent) record. My picks with a 6+ confidence level closed the regular season with a 58-28-1 (67.4 percent) mark. My overall record was 177-92-2 (65.8 percent), a win mark that rank tied for 14th among the hundreds of analysts that NFL Pickwatch tracks.
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Los Angeles Chargers at Jacksonville
The Chargers overcame losing four games in six weeks at one point this year and earned a playoff spot by spot by winning five out of six contests in Weeks 12-17. Jacksonville ended the season on an even higher note with a 6-1 record following its Week 11 bye, a string of wins that included victories over Baltimore, Tennessee (twice), and Dallas.
Los Angeles has a powerhouse offense but oddly enough it needs a strong defensive performance to win. The Chargers are 7-0 when allowing fewer than 20 points this season, versus a 3-7 record when giving up 20 or more points. The Jaguars are in a similar boat with a 5-1 mark in the less than 20 points allowed column and a 4-7 mark in the 20+ points allowed column.
That means this game will come down to which team plays better defense. Both clubs have trended in the right direction of late, as the Chargers allowed 17 or fewer points in all four games from Weeks 14-17, while Jacksonville gave up only 22 total points in Weeks 16-18. The issue there is the Jaguars gave up huge point total quite often before that and those last three games were against the Jets, Texans, and Titans offenses. Los Angeles posted its figures against slightly better clubs, so they get this pick by a slight margin.
KC’s pick: Los Angeles
Confidence level: 2
New York Giants at Minnesota
The Giants got out of the gate in a hurry this year with a 6-1 start. They have gone 3-6-1 since then but give New York credit for winning and/or tying games against teams that that should have won or tied against. Minnesota has a similar story in that it began with an 8-1 mark and then went 5-3 after that.
The Vikings are the NFL team that is most comfortable getting into a high scoring game, as Minnesota is 12-0 when scoring 23 or more points. That dovetails poorly for the Giants, as New York is 0-6 when giving up 23+ points, but the flip side of that equation is the Giants are 6-0 when allowing fewer than 20 points and 9-1-1 when giving up 22 or fewer points.
Minnesota offsets those trends with a 12-1 record when allowing 30 or fewer points. That means the Vikings are 1-3 when allowing more than 30 points, which is really bad news for the Giants since New York has scored more than 30 points only once this year, that in a Week 17 matchup against a demoralized Colts team. They won’t be facing an overmatched team this time out, so Minnesota gets this pick.
KC’s pick: Minnesota
Confidence level: 5
Baltimore at Cincinnati
It’s been a tale of two seasons for the Ravens, as Baltimore took a 7-4 record into the Week 13 game against Denver, but after Lamar Jackson got hurt in that contest, the Ravens barely beat an outclassed Broncos team and then generated only two wins in the next five weeks. Cincinnati started the season off with a disappointing 0-2 record, but the Bengals 12-2 mark since then is the best in the league in that span.
It looks like Jackson will not be returning in time for this contest, so Baltimore will have to rely on its late season defensive-centric approach. That worked well in many ways, as the Ravens did not allow an opponent to score more than 16 points in the five games in Weeks 13-17. Unfortunately for Baltimore, their offense was equally limited, which is why the Ravens scored 17 or fewer points in each of those five games.
Baltimore also has a problem in that the Bengals ended that low points allowed stretch by posting 27 points in the Week 18 matchup between these teams. Cincinnati has not scored fewer than 20 points since Week 8 and also fields one of the stingiest rush defenses in the league, which is not a good matchup for a Baltimore offense that will rely heavily on the ground game. Put those factors together and it equals a Bengals win.
KC’s pick: Cincinnati
Confidence level: 5