After a week and a half of traveling for the holidays, I’m finally back at home, relaxing on the couch, watching NBA games on the TV, and above all else, I’m ready to dig into Wild Card Weekend.
Who is ready for playoff football?????
Since late November, I’ve been raving about how I can’t remember a year in which I was this excited for the NFL playoffs. Now that the playoffs are actually here, my feelings toward the matter haven’t changed in the slightest. This is one of the most intriguing NFL playoff brackets I can remember during my time as a football fan.
There are so many teams that could legitimately win this year’s Super Bowl. In the AFC, the Chiefs, Chargers, Patriots, and even the Texans all have a chance to win it all. The Ravens and Colts are both worthy sleepers. In the NFC … well, darn … where do you even begin in the NFC? The Saints, Rams, and Bears should all be considered favorites. Meanwhile, the Cowboys could be a legitimate threat if their defense holds up. The Seahawks have Russell Wilson, and thus can never be counted out.
And then of course, there are the defending champion Eagles, headed by the miracle worker Nick Foles. You definitely can’t count them out.
I’m so giddy for the 2018-19 playoffs, I can barely contain myself. It’s just going to be one ginormous crapshoot, and I can’t wait to watch every kickoff, run, throw, fumble and interception. It will be glorious.
(Additionally, the playoffs are my opportunity to redeem myself for my dreadful regular season of picking games. I finished the season a miserable eight games below .500. The goal for the playoffs is always to go 11-0, which is darn near impossible. This year, however, an 11-0 postseason would salvage my regular season in a heartbeat. Let’s do this.)
Here are my official picks for the wild card round. Home teams are in caps, and lines are courtesy of OddsShark.com.
Colts (+1) over TEXANS
Why you should back the Colts: Andrew Luck has returned to form, and don’t forget this guy was once considered the next savior of the NFL… It’s always more important to look at how a team finished the season as opposed to how they started it, and Indy finished the season 9-1 after starting 1-5… Luck has proven to be somewhat scary in the playoffs (for reference, look back to Chiefs vs. Colts from the 2013 playoffs)… and lastly, the Colts are 5-1 against the Texans in their last six games at NRG Stadium.
Why you should back the Texans: Despite their poor record at home against the Colts recently, the Texans were 6-2 at home this season… After starting the season 0-3, the Texans finished the season on an incredible 11-2 run that included a nine-game winning streak... Houston has J.J. Watt on defense, and he’s always a game-changer.
Ultimately, for me, it often simply comes down to the quarterback matchup. I like Deshaun Watson a lot, but in a first round playoff game (Andrew Luck has played in and won many of them), I like Luck just a little bit better.
Prediction: Colts 24, Texans 20
COWBOYS (-2.5) over Seahawks
Why you should back the Seahawks: Anytime you bet against Russell Wilson, you’re doing so at your own risk (never forget the 2014 NFC Championship Game at Green Bay) because he’s one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks when the lights are at their brightest… Seahawks are 11-2 in their last 13 primetime games… Seahawks are 25-6-4 against the spread in their last 34 primetime games… Once again, just for good measure, Seattle ALWAYS has a chance to win if Wilson is out there.
Why you should back the Cowboys: In their last eight games, the Cowboys went 7-1 and 6-1-1 against the spread… When Ezekiel Elliott gets going, he’s an absolute machine… Dak Prescott has quietly become a young quarterback who can come through in the clutch, even if his stats won’t blow your mind (much like a young Tom Brady)… Shutdown defense wins playoff games, and this Dallas defense dominated Drew Brees and the Saints at home in Week 13 — as big of a statement win as you will ever see in the NFL.
Ultimately, for me, it seems like a lot of “experts” are getting behind the Seahawks in this game, and that makes me feel like getting behind the Cowboys is the way to go. At home, I feel like the Dallas defense can be trusted. On the road… well, we will cross that bridge when we come to it.
Prediction: Cowboys 17, Seahawks 14
RAVENS (-3) over Chargers
Why you should back the Chargers: There’s no way around this argument; Los Angeles was one of the best teams in the entire league this season, and they deserve to be playing this game at home… Luckily for the Chargers, they aren’t playing this game at home because they’ve been significantly better on the road than they have been at that silly Stubhub Center.
Why you should back the Ravens: If there’s a hotter hand in the NFL right now than that of 21-year-old Lamar Jackson, I would like to see it… Unlike the Chargers, the Ravens actually do have a home field advantage… Baltimore’s defense made a pretty strong statement in 2018, and it will be interesting to see if they can force another big game choke job out of Philip Rivers… And lastly, could you really live with yourself if you bet on Philip Rivers on the road in a playoff game?
Ultimately, for me, Rivers will forever be one of my favorite NFL punching bags. Even though he had a tremendous regular season, possibly the best of his career, I always love bringing up how he can never win the big one. I’m intrigued to see if this is the year that he, at age 37, finally proves the haters wrong.
(Personally, I don’t believe Rivers has it in him. He’s 37 years old, has been in the league since 2004, and has won a whopping four playoff games, having never reached the Super Bowl. He’s a very good regular season quarterback, but he can’t get it done when it actually matters, and I don’t think he will ever shake that reputation. But hey, that’s why they play the games!)
Prediction: Ravens 21, Chargers 17
BEARS (-6) over Eagles
Why you should back the Eagles: They are doing exactly what they did last year; getting hot at the right time behind the unlikely hero at quarterback… We’re witnessing Nick Foles the sequel before our very eyes… It sounds crazy to say, but the Eagles actually play better with Foles at quarterback instead of Carson Wentz (what does that say about Wentz?)… With Foles, Philly is averaging 27.8 points per game, a significant improvement over 21.62 points with Wentz.
Why you should back the Bears: This is arguably the scariest defense in the league, allowing just 14.9 points per game… If you were an NFL quarterback, would anything be more frightening than standing under center in the middle of a frigid night at Soldier Field while Khalil Mack stood across from you, staring at you like he’s ready to eat you for dinner?... Chicago has covered the spread in nine of its last 10 games… Six of their seven wins at Soldier Field were by at least seven points… Second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has shown signs that he could be very, very good, though maybe not great, but he has been significantly better at home than on the road.
Ultimately, for me, this Bears team is just too good to go home after the wild card round. This defense has won them a lot of games this season, and it should win them this game too. If anybody can extinguish the Nick Foles magic, it has to be Khalil Mack.
Prediction: Bears 20, Eagles 13