Dustin Baker’s NFL Wildcard Playoff Predictions

Justin Jefferson Weighs in
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Wildcard Weekend and next week’s Divisional Round card are among the best Saturday-Sunday-Monday combos on the calendar — in sports and life. It’s just wall-to-wall meaningful football for all the marbles.

So, let’s predict this weekend’s winners.

Dustin Baker’s Wildcard Playoff Predictions

(7) Seattle Seahawks at (2) San Francisco 49ers

Wildcard Playoff Predictions
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Saturday, 1/14, 3:30 pm CST

At some point in the postseason, Brock Purdy will be asked to lead a game-winning drive — and the bottom will fall out for Mr. Irrevelvant. That’s just the way the world works. He’s performed wonderfully to date and deserves all the accolades from his peers and the media.

None of the rookie demons will arrive Saturday, though, as the 49ers and Seahawks will battle some weather and familiarity with each other. For Vikings fans’ perspective, this is like the Vikings and Bears meeting in the postseason. The teams know each other and don’t like one another.

San Francisco is just too hot, and the Seahawks are lucky to be in the dance. The 49ers will prevail and host the purple team next weekend.

Prediction: 49ers over Seahawks, 24-12

(5) Los Angeles Chargers at (4) Jacksonville Jaguars

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports.

Saturday, 1/14, 7:15 pm CST

Well, this contest is fun — a peek into the future of quarterbacks who will nibble at the heels of Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen.

The Chargers roster is outrageously talented, and on paper, the team should have a better record. But they also have Viking-like ways, involving special teams headscratchers and down-to-the-wire unthinkable finishes.

It’s neat for Trevor Lawrence to be in the dance as a sophomore in the league, but merely getting to the postseason is “accomplishment enough” for Jacksonville in 2022. Los Angeles will prevail and head to Kansas City next weekend.

Prediction: Chargers over Jaguars, 30-27

(7) Miami Dolphins at (2) Buffalo Bills

Bills receiver Stefon Diggs celebrates after his 49-yard pass for a touchdown in a 35-23 win over the Patriots. © JAMIE GERMANO / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Sunday, 1/15, 12:00 pm CST

This will be a bludgeoning — a total massacre.

Skylar Thompson is no match for the Bills, and Buffalo would win this game against Tua Tagovailoa in unconcussed form. Miami totally “backed into the playoffs,” and their defense stinks — injuries to the quarterback be damned.

The Bills will absolutely smoke the Dolphins.

Prediction: Bills over Dolphins 44-10

(6) New York Giants at (3) Minnesota Vikings

Justin Jefferson Fires Up
Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports.

Sunday, 1/15, 3:30 pm CST

This is the game, folks — the one where the Vikings finally dispose of a team handily.

The Vikings “only win close games,” and that’ll change on Sunday. Ed Donatell’s defense will alas play some semblance of a complete game, while the Vikings, on the whole, win just convincingly enough to get the purple community jacked for the showdown in San Francisco.

The decisive win you’ve been craving for months arrives.

Prediction: Vikings over Giants, 30-13

(6) Baltimore Ravens at (3) Cincinnati Bengals

Sunday, 1/15, 7:15 pm CST

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) looks on from the sideline between drives in the second quarter of the NFL Week 18 game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Baltimore Ravens at Paycor Stadium in downtown Cincinnati on Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. The Bengals led 24-7 at halftime. © Sam Greene / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Sunday, 1/15, 7:15 pm CST

What a rotten twist of fate for a Lamar Jackson-dependent team to be without — you guessed it — Lamar Jackson.

However, this is a John Harbaugh team, and he isn’t about to get wiped off the map by a division foe. A sneaky little factoid? The Ravens defense has improved markedly since stumbling out of the gate in 2022.

Still, it won’t be enough to defeat the hot Bengals. That lead-up above was only to explain that this won’t be a Bills-Dolphins-style rollover.

Prediction: Bengals over Ravens, 28-18

(5) Dallas Cowboys at (4) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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Monday, 1/16, 7:15 pm CST

Playoff Monday Night Football is so delicious, just a marvelous invention by the NFL. Kudos.

Buccaneers-Cowboys is also the most fascinating game on the Wildcard itinerary. Let’s face it — the Cowboys roster and 2022 performance far outclasses the Buccaneers doings in 2022. After all, Tampa Bay has an 8-9 record. How mediocre.

But this website isn’t in the business of betting against Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. No siree, Bob — not gonna do it. Plus, Brady and Co. are at home. There’s a sneaking suspicion for anyone that picks the Cowboys to wake up Tuesday morning and think, “Did I really bet against Brady at home in the playoffs?”

We ain’t doin’ that.

Prediction: Buccaneers over Cowboys, 34-30


Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).

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