There is a saying in pro sports that the regular season is where you make your money and the postseason is where you solidify your name. Starting tomorrow afternoon, bonafide future NFL Hall of Famers the likes of Phillip Rivers, Russell Wilson, Terrell Suggs, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady among others will look to add additional accolades to an already notable Hall of Fame resume; while young stars such as Deshaun Watson, Todd Gurley, Aaron Donald, Andrew Luck, Ezekiel Elliott, Khalil Mack, Lamar Jackson, and MVP Candidate, Patrick Mahomes will look to create memorable moments on the game’s toughest and brightest stage. We kick off NFL Playoff Football weekend with 4 monumental Wildcard round matchups. Here is all you need to know about this weekend’s key matchups.
Indianapolis Colts vs. Houston Texans
Sat., 1/5, 4:35 p.m. ET
Did anybody have the Colts penciled in for a playoff birth given how they started off the season 1-5? I certainly did not but credit to first-year head coach, Frank Reich on weathering the early storm and getting this team in the field of 12. The Colts are a team packed with young talent. Franchise quarterback, Andrew Luck finally have some building blocks around him outside of wide receiver, TY Hilton. The Colts addressed the offensive line in the draft with pro bowl rookie guard, Quentin Nelson, and on the defensive side of the ball, they have a stout defensive anchor in the rookie linebacker, Darius Leonard. On the flip side, the Houston Texans are a team that many predicted would be in the playoffs this season. Fans got a taste of how good this team could be last season, when then-rookie quarterback, Deshaun Watson took the league by storm before tearing his ACL. However, the Houston Texans weren’t without their own early season struggles as the teams started the season with three straight losses by a combined total of 11 points. The team would then go on a surge to end the season winning 11 of their next 13 and claiming the AFC South division crown.
Who has the advantage?
Again, nobody expected the Colts to get here after their early struggles during the season. And while they are not loaded with talents like their adversary, one could make the claim that they come into this matchup with the best quarterback that would be on the field in Andrew Luck. The Texans on the other hand, are built for playoff football. Deshaun Watson is no slouch of a quarterback himself and he has arguably the best receiver that we will see during the playoffs in DeAndre Hopkins and a championship caliber defense headlined by standouts Jadevon Clowney and JJ Watt who missed the past two seasons with injuries. In terms of who has the advantage, that’s too tough to call as both teams split their two regular-season matchups and each game was decided by 3 points.
21-17 Houston Texans
Seattle Seahawks vs Dallas Cowboys
Sat., 1/5, 8:15 p.m. ET
We close out Wild Card Saturday with a week 3 rematch between the Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys. The Seahawks came away victorious in the matchup with a 24-13 victory at home. However, that was week 3 and both teams have changed for the better since then. For one, there will be no Earl Thomas orchestrating from the back of the defense for the Seahawks. Earl Thomas is a phenomenal player but his contract dilemma with the organization was a distraction for the team and plus there’s the whole flipping off his teammates on the sideline fiasco after his season-ending injury as well as telling Cowboys head coach, Jason Garrett “to come get me” after his Seahawks knocked off the Cowboys in a regular season matchup last season. The Seahawks went 8-4 after starting the season 2-2 with Earl. The Cowboys, on the other hand, aren’t the same team for the better as well. The Cowboys struggled to establish a rhythm on offense during the early portion of the season but that would all change when the team traded a first-round draft pick for the Oakland Raiders wide receiver, Amari Cooper.
Who has the edge?
The Seattle Seahawks were supposed to be in the middle of a rebuild according to analyst and experts. I guess somebody forgot to give that memo to head coach Pete Caroll and his squad. The Seahawks are led by Super Bowl-winning quarterback, Russell Wilson who seems to have a tendency of making something out of nothing. This is a Seahawks team that is young and hungry but the same could be said for the Dallas Cowboys. The only difference is that the Cowboys have more talent on both sides of the ball than the Seahawks.
Prediction: 24-17 Cowboys
Los Angeles Chargers vs Baltimore Ravens
Sun, 1/6, 1:05 p.m. ET
This matchup is still fresh in our minds because it’s only been two weeks since these two teams last played in which the Ravens came away with 22-10 road victory at the StubHub Center. Fast forward two weeks later, and the AFC North Division Champions will be hosting those same Chargers at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. The Ravens took off when rookie quarterback, Lamar Jackson took over the starting QB job from former Superbowl MVP, Joe Flacco. Lamar lifted the Ravens to a 6-1 record as the starter and helped the Ravens secure their first playoff berth since 2014. On the flip side, there is Phillip Rivers and the Chargers who finished the season with a 12-4 record (Chiefs owned division tie-breaker). Some may argue that the Chargers may have the advantage being that they have already seen this Ravens run-heavy offense. This could be a make or break year for Rivers and the Chargers. Among the BIG 3 of the 2004 QB class (Manning, Rivers, and Roethlisberger), Rivers is the only stand out without a Superbowl ring. Will this be the year?
Who has the edge?
It’s hard not to argue in favor of the Baltimore Ravens. They feature a running attack that no team seems to be able to stop and their defense made the high powered Chargers offense look pedestrian. The key would be for the Chargers to stack the box and force Lamar Jackson to beat them deep. However, if it was that simple, it would have been done by now right?
Philadelphia Eagles vs Chicago Bears
Sun, 1/6, 4:40 p.m. ET
The defending Super Bowl Champions looked dead to rights at times during the regular season. But like the late great Rudy Tomjanovich once said, “never underestimate the heart of a champion.” The Eagles certainly have the heart of one as they continue to overcome adversity in the form of another season-ending injury to their star quarterback, Carson Wentz. Nick Foles is back in the same position that he was in last year of a backup quarterback trying to keep a championship team afloat and make a run at another championship. On the contrary is the Chicago Bears who some may say are a team ahead of schedule. They made a blockbuster trade during the preseason to acquire the former defensive player and worthy candidate for the award this season, Khalil Mack. The Bears are led by second-year quarterback, Mitchell Trubiski, who improved tremendously under first-year head coach, Matt Nagy. But the defense is the talk of this Bears team and at times displayed some flashes of those classic “Monsters of the Midway” Bears defenses. In the Bears 16 games this season, the Bears held 10 of their opponents under 20 pts and 3 opponents in single digits without a touchdown scored.
Who has the edge?
One thing that the Eagles have going for them is that they been the underdog before. In fact, last year I picked them to lose each of their playoff matchups until I finally caved and predicted them to beat the Patriots in the Superbowl. However, the circumstances were different then. Those Eagles had home-field advantage in the NFC last year. These Eagles are the sixth seed and would have to run the table as road warriors in order to get back to the Superbowl. The Chicago Bears are a young and hungry team that is a year ahead of schedule who probably feel that they have nothing to lose by going for it all this year. They’ve proven that can shut down high powered offenses such as the Rams and these Eagles don’t pose as much as a threat offensively as the Rams or Saints would in potential later matchups. With that said, I think I learned my lesson from last year.
Who are you rooting for this year in the playoffs? Sound off in the comments below.