NFL Wild Card Upset Prediction | First-Round Favorite Projected To Lose

Last Updated: Jan 13, 2022

The NFL Playoffs are upon us. Wild Card Weekend features a medley of games that could all provide plenty of entertainment, but only one here stands out with the most upset potential.

Thanks to an excellent sample size of games to judge teams on, team-adjusted stats like DVOA have a ton of value. We also have to be aware of how injuries have affected teams to this point.

As always, context is key.

With that in mind, let’s dive into our NFL Wild Card Weekend upset prediction and best bets.

Please note that all NFL gameday odds and lines are current as of 10:00 a.m. ET on Thursday, January 13.

San Francisco 49ers vs Dallas Cowboys Upset Pick

This contest has the closest spread of any game on the schedule (-3), so excuse it for being overplayed as the weekend’s upset of choice.

The 49ers and Cowboys are both talented in their own right, but it has to be said that Dallas seems like the worse team, even despite playing at home.

Maybe in a different matchup the Cowboys could win (against the Cardinals or Rams), however, there is something about the 49ers’ philosophy and recent upwards trend of health that should cause a sinking feeling in Cowboys fans’ hearts.

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Dallas just lost WR3 Michael Gallup, which wouldn’t be such a big deal if he didn’t play like a WR2.

That hole is competently filled by Cedrick Wilson, who has six touchdowns this year, but the talent gap is something Dallas will be hard-pressed to make up.

It would be remiss to not note that Cowboys’ WR CeeDee Lamb did have his best stretch of the season when Gallup was out for the first half of the season.

Nevertheless, the poor second-half performance with Gallup in the lineup could also be due to Dak Prescott‘s calf injury, which has been mysteriously looming.

Dallas’s defense this season remains a revelation. They should be capable of limiting Jimmy Garoppolo, but not completely stopping the offense due to the structuring/layering of their weapons that rely on yards after the catch to operate.

The Cowboys’ defense is also middling against the rush as they sit 16th in DVOA and will face the 5th-ranked rushing offense by DVOA and attempts per game.

Meanwhile, the 49ers are elite against the rush (2nd) and will force Dak to win this game with his arm.

He has all the ability to and should put up Dallas’s fair share of points though, with Gallup gone, Tony Pollard‘s foot still potentially ailing, and Zeke’s limitations as a receiver this year, he is severely handcuffed despite what Week 18 may have shown.

Assuming Jimmy Garoppolo’s thumb is as healthy as it looked last week against the Rams, San Francisco should move on to play in the Divisional Round.

Upset Prediction: 49ers 24, Cowboys 23

49ers vs Cowboys Upset Best Bets

Upset Bet: 49ers Moneyline (+145) at Caesars

Wager: 2 Units

Dallas is on the verge of breaking apart as they have struggled offensively in the second half to not only create points but stay on the field.

Again, the Cowboys looked incredible in Week 18, but that was against a Philadelphia team loaded with backups.

Meanwhile, San Francisco may be the underdog, but they have more outs. If their starting quarterback goes down for any reason, they have a top-3 pick who has started multiple games and can switch up the looks on offense.

Heck, even if Garoppolo just struggles, Trey Lance could come in and flip the script on a Dallas that is focusing its preparations on Jimmy G.

Upset Pick: Under 51 Total Points (-110) at Caesars

Wager: 1 Unit

The Cowboys are the fastest team in the NFL when it comes to situation neutral pace while San Francisco ranks 28th.

However, when the 49ers lead by at least a touchdown, they rank 21st. And when Dallas trails by at least a touchdown, they are considerably slower (15th).

Assuming this game goes the 49ers’ way as discussed, the under should hit.


Kev Mahserejian

Kev Mahserejian is an NFL/NBA/MLB analyst at The Game Day, residing in Los Angeles, CA. He graduated from the University of Southern California in 2017 and began creating sports content soon after. Kev currently writes fantasy and betting pieces while also hosting his podcast The Operating Room with various guests from the sports industry to discuss topics primarily regarding fantasy. He also writes for RotoBaller and is quite active on his Twitter @RotoSurgeon.

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