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NFL wild-card picks: Ravens top Titans, Bills a lock to beat Colts

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson celebrates after running back

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson celebrates after running back J.K. Dobbins ran in for a touchdown against the Bengals during the second half of an NFL game on Sunday in Cincinnati. Credit: AP/Aaron Doster

If you were not in favor of the NFL adding a seventh wild-card team in each conference, please issue your apology to the league immediately. Now we get six games instead of four, and really, why should the 2 seed get a bye in the first place? The AFC has the more intriguing games, with Baltimore-Tennessee the best of the entire bunch.

SATURDAY’S GAMES

INDIANAPOLIS (11-5) AT BUFFALO (13-3)

TV: Ch. 2, 1:05 p.m.

Buffalo by 6.5; O/U: 51.5

If Buffalo lost to Miami last week, it would’ve set up a rematch in the wild-card round instead of having to face a more dangerous Colts team. On second thought, the way the Bills are playing, it doesn’t matter whom they’re facing. If not for the last-second "Hail Murray" in Arizona, Buffalo would be on a 10-game winning streak. After that two-point loss, the Bills have won six in a row by 10, 10, 11, 29, 29 and 30 points! Josh Allen is on fire and Sean McDermott’s defense should force Philip Rivers into a costly mistake or two. Buffalo’s 22-19 overtime loss at Houston in the wild-card round last season, a game it led 16-0, was a big lesson for a young team and it’ll be ready this time.

The pick: Buffalo

The score: Buffalo 38, Indianapolis 27

L.A. RAMS (10-6) AT SEATTLE (12-4)

TV: Ch. 5, 4:40 p.m.

Seattle by 3.5; O/U: 42

It’s uncertain if Jared Goff will play, but I’m not certain it matters. The Seahawks just beat the Rams, 20-9, in Seattle two weeks ago (L.A. won the first meeting, 23-16, in Week 10). Seattle’s defense is allowing 16 points per game over its last eight contests compared with a little over 30 in its first eight. Seattle has won 10 straight home playoff games, the last five with Russell Wilson. Seattle is the healthier squad and it will show. The key will be making sure the Rams aren’t ahead at halftime: When they are, Sean McVay is a remarkable 36-0.

The pick: Seattle

The score: Seattle 23, Los Angeles 13

TAMPA BAY (11-5) AT WASHINGTON (7-9)

TV: Ch. 4, 8:15 p.m.

Tampa Bay by 8.5; O/U: 44.5

The last time a seven-win team made the playoffs . . . it won its first-round game. And the time before that . . . it also won. While Washington is unlikely to make it 3-for-3, covering is a different story. Quick, how many playoff teams did Tom Brady’s Bucs beat this year? Yep, just one (38-10 over Packers back in Week 6). It’s also just one for Washington, albeit an impressive one over then-11-0 Pittsburgh. But no one is saying Washington is a title contender. Some are giving Tampa Bay a shot after a 4-0 December (against Minnesota, Detroit and Atlanta twice), but I’m not buying the Bucs. Led by Chase Young, Washington has the pass rushers to get in Brady’s face and frustrate him, which as every Giants fan will tell you, is the way to beat him. The Bucs went 1-3 in prime-time games and the one win was a sweat-it-out two-pointer over the Giants. All the pressure is on the visitors, and "Riverboat" Ron Rivera will roll the dice when necessary and keep this closer than you think.

The pick: Washington

The score: Tampa Bay 24, Washington 19

SUNDAY’S GAMES

BALTIMORE (11-5) AT TENNESSEE (11-5)

TV: ESPN, Ch. 7, 1:05 p.m.

Baltimore by 3.5; O/U: 54.5

If you like your football served with lots of points, make sure you get a good seat on the couch and buckle up for three hours of fireworks: The Titans (30.7 points per game) and the Ravens (29.3) have the top two rushing attacks in the NFL and can be explosive. These teams met in the divisional round last year, when Tennessee upset No. 1 seed Baltimore (the Titans also won this season’s Week 11 matchup, 30-24, in OT). Now, the Ravens are on the road but still favored, but in the big picture, they’re flying under the radar. Lamar Jackson is back to his MVP-caliber level as the Ravens finished on a five-game win streak while scoring 34, 47, 40, 27 and 38 points. Baltimore could benefit from being a lower seed and embracing that underdog role as the playoffs advance, and it wouldn’t shock me if they make a run all the way to the Super Bowl. Derrick Henry and Tennessee will be a tough out, but Jackson gets Baltimore going early (remember, he’s not at his best when having to play catch-up) and exacts some Raven-ge.

The pick: Baltimore

The score: Baltimore 45, Tennessee 34

CHICAGO (8-8) AT NEW ORLEANS (12-4)

TV: Ch. 2, Nickelodeon, Amazon Prime 4:40 p.m.

New Orleans by 10; O/U: 47

This could be Drew Brees’ last hurrah so the urgency level in New Orleans is high, especially after a run of playoff misfortune that includes a 1-4 ATS mark in the last five playoff games. The Saints are clearly the better team, but with the Alvin Kamara COVID-19 news possibly being a distraction and a Bears team playing with house money (and confident they could hang with the Saints after a 26-23 OT loss in Week 8), this feels as if a backdoor cover will be open late.

The pick: Chicago

The score: New Orleans 34, Chicago 27

CLEVELAND (11-5) AT PITTSBURGH (12-4)

TV: Ch. 4, 8:15 p.m.

Pittsburgh by 6; O/U: 47.5

Only a tortured franchise like the Browns could end the NFL’s longest playoff drought (2002 season) and then fewer than 48 hours later find out they won’t have their head coach for that game. I was all set to call the outright upset, but I can’t do it now. The news of Kevin Stefanski’s positive COVID-19 test is too much to overcome. Even if Baker Mayfield keeps it close early, Ben Roethlisberger (24-2-1 all-time vs. Cleveland) has the weapons at receiver to pull away later.

The pick: Pittsburgh

The score: Pittsburgh 27, Cleveland 20

STAFF STANDINGS AND PICKS (best bets in bold)

JOE MANNIELLO

122-125-9 overall, 11-6 best bets

Buffalo Seattle Washington

Baltimore Chicago Pittsburgh

BOB GLAUBER

128-119-9, 5-11-1

Buffalo Seattle Tampa Bay

Baltimore New Orleans Pittsburgh

TOM ROCK

127-120-9, 7-8-2

Buffalo Seattle Tampa Bay

Baltimore New Orleans Pittsburgh

AL IANNAZZONE

123-124-9, 12-5

Buffalo Seattle Tampa Bay

Baltimore Chicago Cleveland

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