Colts at Texans, Seahawks at Cowboys, Chargers at Ravens and Eagles at Bears. It’s the NFL Wild Card round! With the regular season over, the NFL playoffs are win or go home. Can any of these Wild Card teams make a run to the Super Bowl? It all starts this weekend! Which team will win every NFL Wild Card game? We’ve broken down every NFL Wild Card game, which includes our staffs’ picks.
Colts at Texans (Saturday)
This NFL Wild Card game should be fun to watch! Two AFC South rivals who went 1-1 against each other this season. Both games were won by three points. The Texans beat the Colts on their home field back in Week Four, but the Colts came into Houston and beat the Texans in Week 14. This shows how evenly matched these two teams can be. Both teams have a top 10 defense in points allowed. The Texans rank fourth (19.8), while the Colts rank 10th (21.5). There’s not even a two point difference in average points allowed per game.
Offensively, the Colts rank fifth in points per game (27.1), while the Texans rank 11th (25.1). That’s exactly a two point average difference. Because both the offense and defense on both sides are so evenly matched, this game comes down to the QBs. I asked myself if I would rather have Andrew Luck or Deshaun Watson heading into this game. I chose Andrew Luck.
In two games against the Texans this season, Andrew Luck completed 65.2% of his passes for 863 yards, six TDs, one INT and a passer rating of 106.1. In two games against the Colts, Deshaun Watson completed 70.1% of his passes for 642 yards, three TDs, one INT and a passer rating of 101.1. Looking at their numbers against each other, there’s not a whole lot separating them. The reason I went with Andrew Luck is because of his playoff experience. This will be Luck’s fourth time in the playoffs. This will also be Deshaun Watson’s first ever NFL playoff game.
Aside from experience, there’s another key stat that could impact how these QBs perform. The Texans allowed the most sacks in the NFL this year, giving up 62. The Colts allowed the least amount of sacks, giving up just 18 all season long. If the Texans don’t get pressure or hits on Andrew Luck, but the Colts get hits and pressure on Deshaun Watson, there’s a good chance the Colts walk out of this NFL Wild Card game with a win.
Seahawks at Cowboys (Saturday)
The NFC East winning Dallas Cowboys face off against the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday night, a team very similar to who they are. Both teams like to play hard defense, while running the ball offensively. The outcome of this game could come down to whoever executes in those two areas the best. You could call the Cowboys and Seahawks equals when it comes to the run and playing defense, but the edge goes to the Seahawks at the most important position.
QB Russell Wilson has not only played at a high level this season, but he’s a proven postseason winner, having won a Super Bowl and played in another. QB Dak Prescott has yet to win a playoff game, and this is only his second playoff appearance in his three NFL seasons. Dak has played well at times this season. He’s coming off a 387 yard and four TD game against the Giants last week. However, he’s also had some games in which he’s been mediocre at best. Chances are Russell Wilson will be ballin, but which version of Dak Prescott will we see?
Many people are picking the Seahawks to win because they have already beaten the Cowboys this season. That game ended with a score of 24-13, but it was played in Seattle. This game is in Dallas. The Cowboys have enjoyed playing at home this season, earning a 7-1 record compared to their record of 3-5 on the road. Seattle is 4-4 on the road this season, while they were 6-2 at home. This game is being played in a completely different environment than the first time around. Will the atmosphere change the outcome?
Even as a Cowboys fans, I’m picking the Seahawks to win this game. I’ve seen the Cowboys lose way too many times in their first playoff game to have real hope of them winning. I can just see something going wrong in a crucial moment, possibly right from the start.
Chargers at Ravens (Sunday)
This NFL Wild Card game features two teams who faced each other just two weeks ago. The Baltimore Ravens came out of that game with a 22-10 victory over the Chargers. The Chargers will be looking for revenge on the Ravens, but it may not be so easy to come by. This could possibly be the worst NFL Wild Card game matchup the Chargers could have received.
In their first meeting, the Baltimore Ravens played lights out on defense. Not only did they hold the Chargers to 10 points, but they made Philip Rivers have his worst performance of the season. His passer rating was 51.7 in that game. The potential MVP candidate looked terrible against the NFL’s number two defense in points allowed (17.9). To make things even tougher on Philip Rivers and the Chargers, this game will be played in Baltimore. If they got beat 22-10 on their home field, how will they perform away from home? Well, the Chargers actually had a better record on the road this season, going 7-1. Their home record was 5-3.
On the other side of things, the Baltimore Ravens are 6-2 at home. They’re also being led by rookie QB Lamar Jackson, who is now 6-1 as a starting QB in the NFL. The Chargers’ defense will be tasked with slowing Jackson down. In their previous meeting, the Chargers actually held Jackson to his lowest rushing total as a starter (39 yards). They only allowed him to get an average of three yards per carry. Although they kept his rushing total down, they allowed Jackson to throw for the most yards of his short career (204). That was most likely because he was having trouble running the ball. If they can contain Jackson on the ground, they’ll get him passing more. Passing is not one of Jackson’s strengths, so that’s exactly what the Chargers should be looking to do.
A key to victory for both teams has to do with fumbles. On the season, Lamar Jackson fumbled 12 times. Somehow he only lost four of those fumbles, but 12 times is a lot. If the Chargers can force Jackson to fumble and create a turnover, they can give their offense a short field. It’s hard to go 70, 80 or 90 yards against this Ravens defense. If the Chargers get a short field offensively, it will obviously give them more chances to score. If Lamar Jackson doesn’t turn the ball over, he’ll probably put the Chargers’ offense in spots where they have to make long drives. That didn’t work out so well last time around. It probably wouldn’t go too well in this NFL Wild Card game either.
Eagles at Bears (Sunday)
The Philadelphia Eagles seem to be perfectly set up for a win in this NFL Wild Card game. Why? Because they’re the underdog. They were the underdog in every playoff game last season, but won every single game. As long as they’re in the playoffs and have Nick Foles at QB, they’ll probably be underdogs in every game again. Will the result be the same as last season?
One thing that’s different this year from last for the Eagles, is the fact that they’ll have to play every playoff game on the road because they’re the sixth seed. Last season they had their home crowd rally behind them in every game. That will not be case this year.
Not only are the Eagles on the road in this one, but they’re playing in Chicago. This city is home to the NFL’s number one defense in points allowed (17.7). Much like the Eagles’ defense carried them last season, the Bears’ defense is just as capable of leading the Bears on a deep playoff run.
The defense may not be able to do it alone though. The Bears will need help from Mitchell Trubisky and the offense. Despite only being in his second year, Trubisky has something to prove. The verdict is still out on if the Bears trading up for Trubisky and passing on Watson and Mahomes was worth it. Trubisky can’t just let the defense do all the work. He needs to come out and ball. That may be tough in this NFL Wild Card game. The Eagles have been on fire over the last few weeks.