Below are my confidence level straight up picks for the Divisional round. My 2022 picks with a confidence level of 1-5 ended the regular season with a 119-64-1 (65.0 percent) record. The 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 rate that rank tied for 14th among the hundreds of analysts that NFL Pickwatch tracks. The Wild Card round picks went 4-2 overall, with the picks of a 5+ confidence level going 4-1.
The Divisional round selections will be available exclusively to Pickwatch Pro subscribers. Pickwatch Pro is a great service that allows subscribers to download the best expert data in the industry, see team-by-team winners for every expert, and provides access to Upset Watch, which has been the ultimate cheat code to beat the sportsbooks over the last six years. Combine those elements with my playoff picks and it makes for a must-subscribe service for anyone serious about betting.
Jacksonville at Kansas City
The Jaguars had one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history last week by overcoming a 27-0 deficit to notch a 31-30 over the Los Angeles Chargers. Their reward for that effort is getting the earliest matchup of the Divisional weekend and having to face the No. 1 seed Kansas City Chiefs on the road.
This is not the first time Jacksonville has made this trip this season, as the Jaguars lost by a 27-17 score in a Week 10 matchup here. That preceded the Week 11 bye for Jacksonville and seemed to serve as a turnaround point for their season, as the Jaguars won seven of their next eight games. The catalyst for that turnaround has been a mixture of factors, as Jacksonville held three foes to 16 or fewer points while scoring 28+ points on five other occasions.
Even with that newfound success, there is a troubling trend for the Jaguars, as they have a 3-6 record when allowing 23+ points this year. The Chiefs powerhouse offense has led Kansas City to score 24 or more points in nine straight games, so Jacksonville will have trouble keeping up if that trend continues. Add that to the Chiefs having a superb 7-1 mark in shootout games (contests where each team scores 24+ points) and a Kansas City win looks very likely.
KC’s pick: Kansas City
Confidence level: 6
New York Giants at Philadelphia
Give Brian Daboll a ton of credit for last week’s win. Minnesota came into that contest with an incredible 12-1 record when allowing 30 or fewer points and a 1-3 mark when giving up 31+. The Giants had scored 30+ points only once this season prior to that game, but Daboll went all out to turn that contest into a shootout, and it opened the door to a win that probably wouldn’t have been likely had Daboll taken a more conservative approach.
It's possible Daboll will want to use that same approach against Philadelphia, but the Eagles present a problem in that there isn’t the same type of won/loss disparity here as there was with the Vikings. In addition, that may be a one-time use strategy for the Giants, as New York was 2-7 this year when allowing 22+ points.
Another element change is that the biggest weakness for Philadelphia is its rush defense, as the Eagles have allowed 100+ rushing yards in 11 out of the past 13 games and 252 in the two games against the Giants.
That would suggest a slowdown approach will be what Daboll goes with, but Nick Sirianni will have something to say about that, as the Eagles are 14-2 when scoring 17+ points and 12-1 when racking up 22+ points. New York is also 1-4-1 when giving up 160 or more rushing yards and with Jalen Hurts back under center, the Eagles have the capacity to rack up that ground yardage volume. Add this to the game being in Philadelphia and the Eagles having the capacity to beat the Giants in an aerial matchup and Philadelphia is the selection.
KC’s pick: Philadelphia
Confidence level: 4
Cincinnati at Buffalo
The Week 17 matchup between these teams was arguably the most anticipated regular season battle of the 2022 season and since that was canceled due to the Damar Hamlin situation, this is easily the most anticipated playoff game of this year’s tournament.
The Bengals 13-2 mark since Week 2 is the best record in the NFL in that time frame and Cincinnati owes much of that success to a defense that racked up 11 takeaways in the past four weeks and has largely been a shutdown platoon against the run since midseason.
Of course, many of those wins were also due to the passing prowess of Joe Burrow and the receiving talents of Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins. Buffalo’s secondary has struggled of late, as Tre’Davious White has posted mediocre coverage metrics this season and losing Hamlin has now placed third stringer Dean Marlowe at free safety, so this area should be a big plus for the Bengals.
The issue for Cincinnati is Buffalo’s offense has returned to its elite form from earlier this year, as the Bills have tallied 32+ points in four straight games. Buffalo’s ground game can hold up with nearly any club in the NFL, having posted 100+ yards in all but one game this year.
As challenging as the health issues will be to the Bills secondary, the Bengals have been obliterated with offensive line injuries, as they will almost certainly be without three starters on that group. Buffalo has talent and depth in its defensive line and thus can win this personnel matchup handily. When that is added to the emotional boost that can take place if Hamlin makes an appearance here, it should be enough to result in a Bills win.
KC’s pick: Buffalo
Confidence level: 4
Dallas at San Francisco
It just feels right to have another playoff game between Dallas and San Francisco, as this is the ninth postseason matchup between these teams and many of the earlier ones were some of the classic playoff showdowns in league history.
The Cowboys come into this game having righted their ship following the Week 18 debacle against Washington, as Dallas dominated the Buccaneers by a 31-14 scored in the Monday night Wild Card matchup. Dak Prescott played possibly his best game of the 2022 season, as he accounted for five touchdowns against Tampa Bay.
As great as the Cowboys have been playing, San Francisco might be the hottest team in the NFL right now. The 49ers have won 11 consecutive games, with eight of those victories being by a double-digit point total.
San Francisco has done this by dominating in pretty much every category, as the 49ers have rushed for 153+ yards in six straight games, posted 2+ takeaways in eight of the past nine contests, posted only five giveaways in the last 11 weeks (with no more than one in any of those matchups), allowed 100+ rushing yards only twice during this winning streak, posted 33+ points in five of the past six contests, and generated 153 points over the past four games.
Dallas has the talent offset many of those advantageous performances, but it probably doesn’t have enough to counter all of them. Combine that with the game being in Santa Clara and the 49ers having a coaching edge and San Francisco is the preferred option.
KC’s pick: San Francisco
Confidence level: 3