2019 NFL Wild Card Predictions
We know it’s a week late but we think the song that should kick off the NFL playoffs is ‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year.’ This year’s playoff bracket is a good mix of spoilers looking to knock off some golden boys in both conferences. We took our five main writers and had them give their 2019 NFL wild card predictions. Before we get at those one seeds, let’s hash out what hopes to live up to the name, Wild Card Weekend.
Mike Maxwell: This Saturday matchup is a battle of dented cans facing off like the undercard they are in the AFC. Did you know Houston’s Hopkins didn’t drop a pass? He caught every target this season. Makes you ask what the Odell is going on down there in Houston. I expect Luck to have his bell rung early by Clowney and Watt as these Texans aren’t just talented, they’re aware that JJ Watt only has a couple more good years left in him before he runs for Governor of Texas. Texans 31 Colts 20
Will Button: The Colts surprised many by slipping into the playoffs, but their good “Luck” might end against the Texans. Houston’s defense has done a stellar job, and though they’ve had their issues on offense, they’re putting up solid enough numbers to be in the middle of the league on passing (260 yards per game) and 8th in rushing (126 per game). The Colts are riding a hot winning streak into the playoffs, winning seven of their last eight. I’m leaning towards the Texans in this one. While Andrew Luck and company can put some decent points on the board, the Texans have an objectively better defense. All it takes is a turnover or two to turn the tides in their favor. Houston has eight interceptions in their last seven games, as well as a plethora of fumble recoveries. Slow and steady will win this race. Texans 27 Colts 17
Evan Hoovler: I wanted some perspective on the ground for this matchup, so I traveled to NRG stadium and turned myself into a tiny ant. A forest of polypropylene trees stretched before me, the home turf of a Texans team that might be the most balanced in terms of offense and defense. Their D has had a rare year where they weren’t bit hard by the injury “bug,” pun extremely not intended. Andrew Luck is probably the best player in the league, this becomes even more clear when you examine the situation as a tiny insect, just trust me. But in the Colts’ 6 losses, it was quite apparent that Luck can’t put the entire team on his back and carry them to victory. Those were regular season games, this is the playoffs, against a team which seems to have no major weakness (except their field is getting overrun with ants). Texans 31 Colts 17
Waleed Ismail: The Houston Texans may have won the AFC South, but they are not the best team in that division. If you don’t look too closely, the Indianapolis Colts seem like they just squeaked into the playoffs. The truth of the matter is, there isn’t a more complete team in the playoff picture. They are the only team to have a top five scoring offense and defense in the playoffs. They have won 9 of their last 10 games, whereas the Texans have lost 2 of their last 4. On defense, while the Texans might have the star power, the Colts have the better defense. Over their last four games, the Colts have the second-best scoring defense in the playoffs. On offense, the Colts have the edge. When these two teams faced each other this season, Andrew Luck threw for 863 yards, 6 touchdowns, and 1 interception. Deshaun Watson, on the other hand, only threw for 642 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception. The AFC is a tight race from top to bottom and nobody will want to play the Indianapolis Colts. Colts 28 Texans 21.
Jeff Krisko: Full disclosure, I’ve made Indy my AFC Super Bowl pick on the back of the fact that it would be, as the kids say, “cool as all hell.” This matchup is two Comeback Player of the Year candidates squaring up against each other, with J.J. Watt and Andrew Luck both returning from maladies. Their potential meeting point (sacks) are the big difference in Andrew Luck’s 2018 success compared to years past. Luck’s been sacked just 1.13 times per game this year, which is up from his zero sacks taken in 2017, but that rate is less than half as many sacks per game as he took in 2016. For the Texans, yes they have Watt & Clowney, but that Indy offensive line will help to contain them and let T.Y. Hilton continue to chew up and spit out this Houston D. The Houston offense is essentially just Watson2Nuk, which has been an excellent pairing, but not something I’m going to hang my hat on this weekend. Colts 28, Texans 24
Mike Maxwell: The NFL scheduling gods have given us a matchup where two of the hottest NFC teams are pitted against each other. Here’s the deal. What’s the playoff difference between the Cowboys and the Seahawks? The Cowboys crap the bed in the opening round, the Seahawks wait until the final drive of the Super Bowl. Seahawks 24 Cowboys 20
Will Button: Dallas has certainly been entertaining, and Prescott has put up some good looking numbers in his second half of the season. After a slow start and some coaching changes, Dallas looks better than they have in quite a while. If anything, their defense will be the death of them. They barely slipped away from the Giants in their final regular season game, allowing 35 points and narrowly escaping a loss in the final minutes of the game. But their winning streak gives them some fantastic momentum that should allow for their offense to open the game up a bit. Seattle has a defense that can be hit or miss. They’ve allowed 78 points in their final three games of the season, which shows that if they play against a good offense, they’re bound to leak a bit. With Zeke in the backfield and Dak hucking balls like it ain’t no thang, Seattle is going to have a hard time keeping up with the Cowboys’ fast-paced offense. Look for the Cowboys to score early and often. Cowboys 35 Seahawks 24
Evan Hoovler: I had a modest upbringing, being raised with my 9 brothers and sisters in a log cabin in lower Manhattan. As such, I was not exposed to the evils of fandom until a late move to Seattle and saw a bunch of people walking around wearing jerseys with the tags still on. Yet, I was raised to spit ire at the Dallas Cowboys because, come on, drunk Texans are annoying. None of this has to do with my playoff prediction, as I am a consummate professional who doesn’t let his personal views taint his analysis. I did let my views taint my layout skills, and intentionally artifacted the heck out of their logo. It all comes down to which Dallas we get: Regular Season Dallas or Playoff Dallas. Obviously, we get Playoff Dallas: Their defense will falter, special teams will slack, and Dak Prescott is no Russell Wilson. Seahawks 17 Cowboys 14
Waleed Ismail: The Dallas Cowboys have done more than enough to prove that they belong in the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean that they are going to survive. When the Cowboys faced Saquon Barkley and Marlon Mack, they gave up a combined 248 yards and 3 touchdowns to the pair. This week, they are facing one of the fiercest running attacks in the NFL. In the last four weeks of the regular season, Chris Carson rushed for 447 yards and 5 touchdowns. I’m not convinced the Cowboys can slow down the Seahawks rushing attack. Seahawks 27 Cowboys 21
Jeff Krisko: Despite losing nearly every single halfway decent defensive player that wore a Seahawks uniform last season, Russell Wilson & company once again find themselves in the playoffs. This Seattle team is a tough nut to crack, as their last three games are a loss to San Francisco (#2 overall pick), a defeat of Kansas City (AFC #1 seed), and a near-loss to Arizona (#1 overall pick). Still, as long as Russell Wilson is there to do Russell Wilson BS, then ultimately, nothing else matters. Dallas is getting a big boost on both sides of the ball from two of the newest Cowboys, rookie Leighton Vander Esch, and mid-season acquisition Amari Cooper. When it comes down to it, I looked inside my heart and asked if I would trust Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner & Pete Carroll or Dak Prescott, Jason Garrett & Jaylon Smith. I opted to trust the Seahawks team that has been finding a way to make it work for the better part of a decade. And you’ll never guess how Dallas blows it this time. Seahawks 20, Cowboys 17
Mike Maxwell: The old saying of ‘defense travels’ should help out as the Bolts have a top 10 defense that’s nearly as sharp as the chip on the shoulder of Rivers. Jackson has revived Baltimore, hey, he even saved Harbaugh’s job. I’m old enough to know if you’re rooting for the Ravens, you’re really rooting for the Browns, which is just not right. Chargers 27 Ravens 13
Will Button: Philip Rivers has helped his team quietly slip into the playoffs, staying under the radar due to the fact there are so many great offenses this season. It’s one thing to have a strong offensive corps, but another to expect the defense to step up. Luckily, the Chargers defense has done a pretty great job against even the best teams in the league. They kept Mahomes from walking all over them and held teams like Oakland, Baltimore, and Denver to ten points or fewer. In fact, they have five games this season where they held the other team to 14 points or fewer. That’s certainly not easy by modern-day NFL standards. The Ravens also have a stellar defense and have been a bit more consistent than the Chargers. I’d say, especially for the second half of the season, their defense is pretty neck and neck. Baltimore puts up solid points in both their wins and losses, so this one should be an interesting game. It might be a low scoring affair or a shootout, you just don’t know. It’ll come down to mistakes and whether or not each team can capitalize on them. My prediction is that the Chargers will be solid and utilize Gordon on many plays. The Ravens might have some luck early, but look for them to scramble to contain Melvin as the game goes on. Chargers 24 Ravens 20
Evan Hoovler: Two teams. Twenty-two starters. Forty-Four arms. Forty-Four legs. Twenty-two penises. This is what will take the field in Baltimore on Sunday, although I’m not sure why I mentioned the penises. Baltimore has the unique running game, but teams have shown that it’s not unstoppable. Los Angeles will probably be one of those teams. They combine a top 10 D with a potent offense led by the most undervalued player in the league. This will be a toe-to-toe defensive matchup until about the third quarter, when the Ravens run out of gas and the Chargers run away. Chargers 24 Ravens 10
Waleed Ismail: On paper, the Los Angeles* Chargers seem like the runaway favorite in this game, but don’t sleep on the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens are the number 2 scoring defense in the NFL. Also, over the last week of the season, they have been an unstoppable rushing attack, led by dual-threat quarterback Lamar Jackson. The biggest reason I am down on the Chargers is that they have to travel from the west coast to the east coast for the early Sunday game. In a close one, I give the edge to the Ravens. Ravens 21 Chargers 20
Jeff Krisko: We already saw this show on the Saturday before Christmas, as the Ravens already took the Chargers back behind the woodshed, found the best switch they could find, put them over their knee, and spanked them as hard as they could. The Chargers got the worst possible draw these playoffs. A west coast team going east (bad) for a 10 AM body time game (worse) against an opponent that just whooped them (good god no) playing a style that totally neutralizes theirs (oh, the humanity!). The Ravens under Lamar Jackson oppressively matriculate the ball down the field, chewing up your defense four yards and a full play clock at a time. Since Jackson took over, they’ve had the ball nearly 60% of the time, as they average hanging onto the ball for 35:47 a game (the league leader, Arizona, had the ball 33:27 minutes a game). It’s hard for Los Angeles to score if they don’t have the ball, and a banged-up big-play offense going against a smothering offense/defense one-two punch is not a formula I am going to lean on. Ravens 27, Chargers 20.
Mike Maxwell: What a wild year for these two teams. We’re once again looking at the lore of St. Nick and the rise of Coach Nagy and the Mack Attack. This game will be the most fun to watch the whole weekend. The defensive edge goes to the Bears, the offensive edge is a push, special teams fly Eagles fly. What does this all mean? The game will be decided with less than one minute on the clock and I imagine as long as it’s not on the foot of Parkey the Bears will play on. Bears 20 Eagles 17
Will Button: Who would have thought the Bears would have such amazing success on the defensive side of the football this season? They had more interceptions than touchdowns allowed, and that paints the picture well. Whether it’s against the run or pass, Chicago is stellar. Lots of pressure on the quarterback and many turnovers has helped them succeed this season. The Eagles offensive line will be very busy trying to protect Nick Foles. It’s also not a secret that Foles has struggled against Vic Fangio’s defense in the past. While the Eagles have looked good heading into the offseason, their defense is just not up to par with the Bears. Their point production is good but they certainly don’t capitalize off of turnovers as much as other teams do. Defense is extremely important in the playoffs and all it will take are a few three-and-outs to get Chicago back on the field to teach Philadelphia a lesson. Look for the Bears to play strong early and the Eagles to perhaps put up some points but ultimately not be able to slay the defensive beast. Bears 28 Eagles 19
Evan Hoovler: Bears are good. Eagles are bad. Defense wins championships. Nick Foles may have soared through the playoffs last year, but this year he looks horrible without a genius coaching staff who can work around his weaknesses. Eagles’ defense is nothing special, even to an inexperienced offense like the Bears. This one won’t be close. Bears 17 Eagles 0.
Waleed Ismail: I’ll keep it simple with some of the Chicago Bears rankings on defense. Scoring defense. 1st. Yards per game. 3rd. Run defense. 1st. Passes defended. 1st. Sacks. 3rd. Turnovers. 1st. 3rd down conversion rate. 4th. Total first downs allowed. 1st. [Editor’s Note: Spot in Waleed’s Heart. 1st.] The Bears defense isn’t just good; it is historically good, ranking 12th all-time according to Football Outsiders DVOA rankings. A lot of experts are talking about how hot the Eagles are for winning 5 of their last 6. Well, the Bears have won 9 of their last 10. The Chicago Bears are a freight train that I’m not sure the Philadelphia Eagles are ready for. Bears 24 Eagles 10
Jeff Krisko: BDN can’t do it two years in a row, can he? Foles is getting his second shot at leading The Bird Gang to a title after a season-ending Carson Wentz injury. He took down two playoff teams to get to this point, so it’s not like he knocked down tomato cans en route to starting in the playoffs for the second-straight year. The issue is that to get them there, Nick Foles had to have some otherworldly completion percentages (77%, including twenty-five straight last Sunday). Call me crazy, but I don’t think that Pederson and Foles can continue their hot offensive success going against the team that allows the fewest yards per play this season (4.8), and points scored (17.7) on the season. Ultimately, I think this one comes down to Khalil Mack repeatedly putting Nick Foles on his back. Bears 24, Eagles 13.
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