The underdog column isn’t done yet. After posting a 30-24 record with my picks during the regular season, I have two more for you to consider for Wild Card Weekend.
San Francisco 49ers at Dallas Cowboys: 49ers +3
Things looked bleak for the 49ers, who started out the season with a 2-4 record. They didn’t have an easy schedule, though, with two of their four losses coming against the Packers and Cardinals. They came on strong down the stretch, winning seven of their final nine games. During that span, they beat the Bengals and the Rams (twice), while narrowly falling to the Titans in Tennessee.
One of the reasons for the 49ers’ turnaround has been their increased usage of Deebo Samuel in the running game. He played in eight of their final nine games, totaling 53 carries for 343 yards and seven touchdowns. Prior to that, he had a total of six carries across his first eight games.
Another main reason for the 49ers’ success has been the emergence of Elijah Mitchell at running back. Injuries have limited him to 11 games, but he still rushed for 963 yards and five touchdowns. They are 7-4 in games that he played this season, while posting a 3-3 record without him.
As good as the Cowboys were, finishing the season with a 12-5 record, they didn’t exactly have a difficult schedule. Half of their wins came against the Giants, Falcons, Panthers and Washington. Against teams that finished with a winning record, they went just 5-4. Two of those five wins came against the Saints and Chargers, neither of which made the playoffs. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the 49ers win this game, so let’s take a chance on the points.
Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Eagles +9.5
With a 2-5 record to begin the season, it looked like the Eagles had no chance of making the playoffs. However, a favorable schedule down the stretch helped them win four of their final five games to secure a spot. Those four wins came against the Giants, Jets and Washington (twice). That doesn’t exactly instill a lot of confidence for them to have success in the playoffs, though.
Make no mistake about it, it would be a major upset if the Eagles were to pull off a win in this matchup. However, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them keep things relatively close. The Buccaneers have developed some question marks on their roster, including at the wide receiver spot where they lost Chris Godwin to a knee injury and had to release Antonio Brown after a sideline outburst. At running back, Leonard Fournette has missed the last three games with a hamstring injury, although he is hopeful to return for this matchup.
When these two teams met earlier in the season, the Eagles lost by six points at home. In that game, Brown and Godwin combined for 14 receptions, 136 yards and a touchdown. If their star cornerback Darius Slay can help neutralize Mike Evans, then the Buccaneers’ offense might not be as explosive as people have become accustomed to, especially if Fournette isn’t completely over his injury.
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