So the field is set. After the Indianapolis Colts clubbed the Tennessee Titans 33-17 in the regular season finale, the NFL playoffs are set and now the real fun will begin. While the Chiefs, Patriots, Saints and Rams have a bye, there will still be plenty of good football teams battling it out to make it into the divisional round. The matchups are as follows: Colts vs Texans (4:35 PM ET on ESPN/ABC), Seahawks v Cowboys (8:15 PM on Fox) on Saturday, then Sunday holds the Chargers vs Ravens (1:05 PM on CBS), and wraps up with the Eagles, the defending champs, taking on the Chicago Bears (4:40 PM on NBC). All four games will be an amazing contest. Here’s how I think these matchups will pan out.
Indianapolis Colts vs Houston Texans (-2.5)
The first game to kick off wildcard weekend pits two AFC South foes who battled to a regular season split. The Texans won earlier in the year in OT while the Colts beat the Texans just three weeks ago in Houston, snapping the Texans’ nine-game win streak. The Colts are arguably the hottest team in football right now, after a 1-5 start and finishing 9-1. Andrew Luck is, if not back to form, even better than before his injury that caused him to miss the entire 2017 campaign. A resurgent running game, which Luck and the Colts haven’t really had during his tenure, is lead by stud RB Marlon Mack and an offensive line that is not only nasty and mean but tied for the league lead in fewest sacks allowed at 18. And lastly, the defense, led by (my pick for) Defensive Rookie of the year, Darius Leonard. This defense is tough. The Colts are riding high and look like a dark horse in the AFC; the team is peaking and playing complete football during the most important time of the year.
Looking over at the Texans, they are a solid squad. Deshaun Watson has rebounded from last season’s torn ACL, and the Texans are still a formidable foe, with a big-time defense any opposing QB would like held in check. This game ultimately boils down to one thing: head coaching. Frank Reich knows what it takes to make a deep run in the postseason, seeing how he did it just last year as the OC for the Philadelphia Eagles. Bill O’Brien is a solid coach, but has a stale offense that can go into lulls at time. Give me the Colts in a close, but not all too competitive, game — 24-14.
Seattle Seahawks vs Dallas Cowboys (-2.5)
This is a very intriguing matchup. The Seahawks were, all things considered, in a rebuild year. However, behind stellar QB play and a defense that outperformed expectations, Pete Carroll has his team looking like they did during the Legion of Boom days. Dallas… well, what can be said about Dallas? They capitalized on a down year for the NFC East and rattled off several wins in a row. The defense and the running game propelled Dallas into hosting a playoff game. Dak is still a major cause of concern as the overhyped game manager can easily lose the ‘boys a game if he has a major let down game and is shouldered with trying to win a game when a team stacks the box against Zeke. Give me Seattle over Dallas, 27-20.
Los Angeles Chargers vs Baltimore Ravens (-2.5)
This matchup is intriguing as well. We just saw it a few weeks ago, and Baltimore looked far superior. The Chargers have been in a lull of sorts lately, with Phillip Rivers looking more pedestrian than in the first half of the year. When you look at the Ravens, they have easily been red hot with Lamar Jackson under center instead of the old veteran, Joe Flacco. The read option is as deadly as ever, plus with a selection of running backs and a defense that would make Ray Lewis and Ed Reed proud, the Ravens are as dangerous as ever to make another deep run in the playoffs (Patriots beware). Ravens in convincing fashion here — 30-10.
Philadelphia Eagles vs Chicago Bears (-5.5)
The defending champs find themselves in a familiar place: without their star quarterback, and ready to make a postseason run. Normally you’d count out any team with that set of circumstances, however the Eagles have proven that not only can they win without Carson Wentz, Nick Foles is plenty capable of winning a title if they get that far. After offloading the offensive genius of Frank Reich and then losing QB coach John DeFlippo, the Eagles looked dead in the water for most of the year on offense. And that’s not even including a boatload of injuries on both sides of the ball. However, the Eagles are here and if Nick Foles can go, they are as dangerous as ever.
The Bears went back to a formula that works time and time again. The defense will maul you, but the offense will do JUST enough to win the game as well. The Bears added All-Pro Khalil Mack and haven’t looked back since. The defense alone makes the Bears a potential Super Bowl team, and the running game is amazing as well, with studs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen in the backfield. The X-factor is Mitchell Trubisky. Tru has had games where he dominates, then games where he looks no better than Blake Bortles. This matchup is unique because if Foles can go, then I truly believe the Eagles will win… no Foles though? Give me Da Bears!!!! — 35-17.