Saturday NFL Wild Card Games Feature First Time Playoff Quarterbacks: ProFootballDoc

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An exciting slate of six games kicks off Saturday with the first playoff game for each of the four QBs. This is Geno Smith’s first playoff start and obviously the same for “Mr. Irrelevant,” Brock Purdy in the opener. In the night cap, Trevor Lawrence has played plenty of big stage college games but not in the NFL. Finally, it seems hard to believe given how highly Justin Herbert is thought of, that this is his first playoff appearance.

There is no quarterback drama Saturday as in Baltimore with Lamar Jackson missing with his PCL sprain six weeks ago. Teammate Sammy Watkins even said I hope “he decides to play”.

This season’s publicly vetted record matched the previous two. It is pretty clear now that injury based selections against the spread are near 60% across three season. We finished this season 51-35-4 (+16 ATS) which is a winning percentage of 59.3%.

It makes sense that injury riddled teams don’t make the playoffs and thus the team to team SIC health differential is smaller in the post season. However, there is plenty to talk about and advantages to play.

This Weekend’s NFL Wild Card Games Kickoff At 4:30 EST Saturday

Let’s start a new playoff only record with the Saturday picks based on our injury algorithm.

SEA +9.5 @ SF

Both NFC West teams are relatively healthy. The 49ers are heavy favorites and analyzing the matchup, we favor a close game and even a low score. If not for the recent ACL tear to Jordyn Brooks, we might even call for a potential upset. Everyone is on the San Francisco bandwagon but it is still a rookie third string QB versus veteran Geno Smith. In the NFL it is hard to beat a team three times. The 49ers won both regular season games with a total of only 34 points. Looking at the health and algorithms, expect a competitive and potentially low scoring game. A key turnover may determine this hard fought game.

LAC -2 @ JAX

The Chargers head coach is getting grief as Mike Williams is not playing given his transverse process fracture but he could play soon. The key here is can Joey Bosa play? If so, the tandem with Kahlil Mack could put a lot of pressure on the Jaguars who are with star left tackle Cam Robinson and their right guard too. The directional (recent health trend) favors the Chargers. In their regular season meeting, Jacksonville dominated 38-10 but that was with Herbert with painful rib cartilage injury and a host of other injuries. This contest should be different. In this battle of young star quarterbacks, we side with the Chargers.

Tomorrow we will preview the Sunday games. Happy Wild Card Weekend!

Written by Dr. David Chao

David Chao, MD -- known digitally as Pro Football Doc -- is an expert contributor for Outkick. Chao spent 17 seasons as the team doctor for the San Diego Chargers (1997-2013) and is part of the medical team at OASIS in San Diego where he treats and specializes in orthopedic sports injuries, working with high-profile professional athletes from the NFL, NBA, and MLB.

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