Happy New Year Everyone! The tumultuous time that was the 2018 Regular Season is over, and now it’s time for the “Adult Swim.” Yes, 12 teams remain and will battle it out for a chance at immortality. The road to the Super Bowl just reached its rockiest parts while on the home stretch to the ship. It’s time to see whose season will come to an end this weekend with my predictions for the 2019 Wild Card Weekend.
First, let’s look at the teams that earned a First-Round Bye.
New Orleans Saints (13-3)
The Saints started out the year on a white-hot 8 game winning streak thanks to dominance from Drew Brees and standout running back Alvin Kamara. This season had Drew Brees break Peyton Manning’s passing record, and miss his 13th consecutive 4,000 yard passing season by a mere 8 yards. The Saints defense was middle of the pack, but their offensive dominance and precision more than made up for their defense’s shortcomings. The Saints are poised to make a Super Bowl run, and the road to the Lombardi runs through Bourbon Street. Good luck trying to win in the Superdome.
Saints play the winner of Seattle @ Dallas, or Philadelphia if they win
Kansas City Chiefs (12-4)
For the third straight year the Kansas City Chiefs have won the AFC West, and are the #1 seed in the AFC for the first time since 1997. The Chiefs offense exploded with second year phenom Patrick Mahomes, who went on to throw for 50 TD passes and 5,000 yards in his first year as a starter. The Chiefs are looking dominant, but the playoffs have not exactly been kind to Kansas City. The Chiefs have won only three playoff games in the last TWENTY. FIVE. YEARS. Kansas City hasn’t won a divisional playoff game since Joe Montana was their QB, and that was the only one they’ve won since 1969. Let’s hope that Pat Mahomes can be the guy to finally end their playoff woes and make the Chiefs a superpower again. Hell, he may even be able to end the drought in KC.
Chiefs play the winner of Chargers @ Baltimore, or Indianapolis if they win
Los Angeles Rams (13-3)
The Rams have had two different looks in 2018. Over the first 12 or so games, they were 10-1 and their offense were putting up insane numbers, including 2 instant classics against the Minnesota Vikings and the Kansas City Chiefs (which is the greatest game ever played). Then once December hit, the Rams looked like a very different team. They’ve lost 2 very ugly games to the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles, then won their last 2 games against the Cardinals and Niners, which wasn’t saying much. The Rams get a week of rest, and should get their act together in the playoffs. The Rams have way too much talent to be one and done in the playoffs.
Rams play the winner of Seattle @ Dallas, or Chicago if they win
New England Patriots (11-5)
For the eighth consecutive year, the New England Patriots have earned a First-Round Bye in the playoffs. Pardon me if I sound shocked at this revelation. People are saying that Tom Brady’s in a slump, but he went out and had a surprisingly quiet 4,300 yard passing season. Yes, he threw 11 INTs this year, which is the most he’s thrown for since 2013, but he’s still playing well. The Patriots have been looking mortal on the road. Bizarrely this season, the Patriots were 8-0 at home and 3-5 on the road, and a road playoff game could be the key to beating the Evil Empire. Tom Brady has only played in 6 road playoff games IN HIS CAREER, posting a 3-3 record. Tom hasn’t won a road playoff game since 2006 against an upstart Philip Rivers. In his last 3 road playoff games, he’s lost them all at the hands of his rival Peyton Manning, once in Indy, and twice in Denver. The Patriots have a strong chance of making the AFC Championship, because they could play a Texans team with a bad O-Line, or the Chargers, who have looked mortal recently. Regardless, good luck beating the Pats at home, because the Pats have only lost 5 playoff games at Foxborough, in almost 60 years.
Patriots play the winner of Los Angeles @ Baltimore, or Houston if they win
Last Week’s Score: 14-2
Regular Season Score: 161-95
Now, on with the playoffs!
NFC Wild Card Game: Seattle Seahawks (10-6) @ Dallas Cowboys (10-6)
The Seahawks have had a very quiet 10-6 season, thanks to a surprisingly decent run game, and good defensive play. Like the Cowboys, they were 4-5, then went on a 6-1 run to sneak in the playoffs. Despite their defensive play, the Seahawks have relied on Russell Wilson to carry them to the postseason once again. The Dallas Cowboys have had a very ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ year. At the trade deadline, the Cowboys were 3-5 and everyone thought they were dead in the water. Then, Dallas traded a First-Round pick for Amari Cooper, then went on a 5 game win streak and played like they meant business (aside from a week 16 shutout against the Colts). Dak threw for 3,885 yards this season and really matured as a passer, while Ezekiel Elliot nabbed his second rushing title in three seasons. Although there’s a strong chance of Russell Wilson shenanigans, I’m going to pick the Dallas Cowboys to win their second playoff game in 23 years and move on to play the Saints in a high profile rematch.
AFC Wild Card Game: Indianapolis Colts (10-6) @ Houston Texans (11-5)
Nobody thought the Colts would’ve made the playoffs at the beginning of the year. They were 1-5, with bad play on both sides of the ball. Then all of the sudden, Andrew Luck led the Colts on a 9-1 run to finish 10-6 and earn a playoff berth. Now, they go on the road to face a familiar foe in the Houston Texans, who have looked very mortal. Their offensive line has looked really weak, and their defense hasn’t been as dominant as they have been in the past, but still rank 12th overall. This is going to be another tight playoff game, but I’m going to pick Andrew Luck and the Colts to nudge by the Texans, then get ready to get blown out at Arrowhead.
AFC Wild Card Game: Los Angeles Chargers (12-4) @ Baltimore Ravens (10-6)
In a rematch from week 16, the Baltimore Ravens host the Los Angeles Chargers. Both of these teams have turned it on late in the year, especially the Baltimore Ravens. After Joe Flacco hurt his hip, Lamar Jackson took over after the bye week and led the Ravens on a 6-1 record to finish 10-6. They haven’t been throwing the ball a whole lot, but have been just playing old school, smash mouth football. Run the ball down opponent’s throats, and play killer defense. The Chargers have won 5 of their last 6 games, and despite the slump in the run game, Philip Rivers has done more than enough to keep LA alive, and prove that he’s an elite QB. This is going to be a close game, but I’m going to go with the Baltimore Ravens to get the W, and head on to Foxborough.
NFC Wild Card Game: Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) @ Chicago Bears (12-4)
For the second year in a row, Nick Foles will lead the Philadelphia Eagles into the postseason, and he has a tough test ahead of him on the road against the Chicago Bears. I’m a bit worried for Nick Foles, because he got knocked out of last week’s shutout win over the Redskins, but Doug Pederson says that Foles will play. The Eagles are true underdogs this year, barely squeaking in the playoffs and the question on everyone’s mind is, “can they pull it off again?” They still have many key defensive players from last year, it’s just that the secondary fell off a cliff. Last year, the Eagles had a top 10 unit, this year they rank 23rd, giving up 366.2 yards a game. Now they play the Chicago Bears, who rank 21st offensively, but have the NFL’s 3rd ranked defense. Since the Bears traded for Khalil Mack, the defense immediately got better. Mack has been nothing short of dominant, immediately making the Bears from an afterthought into a playoff team. I sure don’t wanna be Nick Foles right now. He’s going into frigid Chicago, against that defense with banged up ribs. Yeah, this is gonna be ugly. I’m going to pick the Bears to win a tight defensive contest and get ready for a rematch against the LA Rams.