The 2018 NFL regular season is quite unique to me in the sense of how wild open things are heading into the playoffs. There are a lot of recycled narratives in football, and we say this a lot, but I'm not sure there's ever been year in the past since the playoffs went to six teams where it seems like every team has a legitimate argument as to why they could win the Super Bowl. I like a few wild card teams chances to keep their season going next week too. I could honestly see any team in the dance winning it all. Something you never see in football, despite it being one of the more wide open sports historically when it comes to this time of year.
With the lines of all these games so close, it looks like Vegas has no idea what's going to happen either. Even the good teams have giant question marks. I wouldn't be totally shocked to see road teams go 4-0 in the Wild Card Round. There's soooo many narratives and flaws with all these teams. Can the Chiefs get past history and their lack of defense to actually win the playoffs? Even with Brady and Belichick...are the Patriots too old and untalented? Bears and Ravens have fantastic defenses with exciting; yet limited QB's. Rams may have peaked too early. Can the Eagles really do it again with Foles? Do the Houston Texans matter? Is Andrew Luck fully back? Will the Saints defend the dome like 2009? Can Phil Rivers ever make it to the Super Bowl? Can Russell Wilson carry this team back to the Super Bowl? All these questions will be answered in the upcoming weeks.
Let's look at this weekend's games.
(6) Indianapolis Colts 10-6 v (3) Houston Texans 11-5 (-1.5)
4:35 pm ESPN
In the first ever all-AFC South playoff match-up, we have two teams who split their regular season matchups, with the road team winning each game. In week 5 you would've never guessed this would end up being a playoff matchup. The Texans started off 0-3 and the Colts were 1-5 before they turned things on. Despite a lot of shit from the outside on the quality of football, In the last two seasons all AFC south teams have made the playoffs. Easily the only division who can make that claim. I believe going into the regular season I said this was the best division in the NFL...
These are two of the hotter teams in football. The Texans have lost twice since September, and the Colts are 9-1 in their last 10. The Colts did come into Houston a few weeks ago and win as 4.5 point underdogs, which is the Texans only home loss since week 3. They do say it is tough to beat the same team on the road twice in one season..
The Texans are slight favorite at -1.5.
I have nooooooooooo idea what to expect this game. The Colts O line went from the worst in the NFL to the best thanks to the addition of Quenton Nelson. With the Texans strength being their D-line the Colts have a legitimate chance to keep the Texan pass rushers like J.J. and Clowney at bay. That being said the AFC South is weird AF and the early Saturday wild card game has sort of turned into the Houston Texans bowl this decade. They've played in this game in 2011, 2012, and 2015. They know this time slot and it's iggy of me to say but with that 7 year old girl getting murdered in Houston with DeAndre Hopkins saying he's using his game check to pay for the funeral makes me think this is a rally around something game for the Texans. Shit like that is what happens in sports. I expect him to go off. and for the first time in franchise history the Texans are in the playoffs with a legitimate QB. DeShaun Watson can be shaky at times, but overall he's a game changer, who has shown he loves the big stage. T.Y. Hilton is a little banged up, and I feel like everybody is on the Colts. I don't have great confidence in this pick but I do think the Texans find a way to win close game.
Gun to my head I say 27-23 Texans
(5) Seattle Seahawks 10-6 vs. (4) Dallas Cowboys 10-6 (-2)
8:15 PM Fox
All things considered, the Seattle Seahawks are the most surprising team in the playoffs. After an off-season that saw the official end to the Legion of Boom, the Hawks were in a time of transition.
In a division with the hot, young, up and coming QBs in Jared Goff, and Jimmy Garropolo it looks like the Seahawks window was closing.
Then Jimmy G went down early in the year opening the door for Seattle. Despite a lot of guys who weren't part of their 2013 and 2014 Super Bowl teams the Seahawks thanks to Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll are back. It pains me to say it, but they remind me of a west coast Patriots. It's all about the coach and QB. They've followed that formula of New England, replacing stars and still finding a way to win.
Then we have the Cowboys. They were 3-5, but with how bad the NFC East was, that was right in the thick of things. They added Amari Cooper and have turned into a different team. A shutout loss to the Colts is their only loss of the 2nd half of the season.
This game to be is a total toss up. Seattle is a different team on the road and have dropped some questionable road games this year, losing in Denver and San Francisco. Tough places to play for sure, but teams who didn't do much winning in 2018. Then there's the Cowboys. They seem to always find a way to lose these games. The Cowboys have won 2 playoff games since 1995 please do not forget that. I love Zeke and the linebacker play of the Cowboys, but there's just something about Russell Wilson. Something is telling me he finds a way to win this game. Dak isn't awful. but I still really don't believe in him as QB. Wouldn't be shocked to see him with a turnover that costs them late. Even with one of the biggest blunders in NFL history, I still like Pete Carroll and think he's a much better coach than clappin Jason Garrett.
(5) Los Angeles Chargers 12-4 v (4) Baltimore Ravens 10-6 (-3)
1pm CBS (Sunday)
This is one of the games I'm most excited for. I love what both of these QBs do, even though they are popular opposites. This should be a really fun game.
The Ravens went into L.A. and beat the Chargers in week 16 22-10 but I think that's a game you gotta throw away, the Chargers were missing all their running backs who matter.
I've very interested to see how the Chargers handle Lamar Jackson for a 2nd time in 3 weeks.
I really like what both of these teams do, the Ravens know who they are. They play great defense and control the clock. The Chargers have guy by guy probably the most talented roster in the NFL top to bottom. I think that if the Texans win, whoever wins this game has a great chance to go into Arrowhead and win in the divisional round.
I like Phil Rivers a lot, and really want to see him go on a playoff run. He's a guy who needs a Super Bowl appearance to really get people talking about how great he's been for nearly the last 15 years. That being said having to go east for 1 o'clock game somehow still matters, and while this team has been great on the road, I like Harbaugh for the Ravens and think as long as Lamar Jackson doesn't turn the ball over, which we've seen the last few weeks he rarely does, I like the Ravens to win this one. Who knows if he'll last longterm in the NFL, but right now I love the way this team is playing behind him. They have a new jolt of life and play great defense behind him. As the GOAT Bill Belichick says, they play great complimentary football. They haven't had too many home playoff games under JH, but when they happen the Ravens win. Harbaugh is a sort of shocking 2-0 in home playoff games. Not a huge sample size, but I think it goes to 3-0 this weekend.
That being said, I have a future bet at 9/1 for the Ravens to win the AFC and with the Chargers as a slight underdog I may hedge even this early in the game.
(6) Philadephia Eagles 9-7 vs. (3) Chicago Bears 12-4 (-6.5)
Fox 4:25pm (Sunday)
I give the Eagles great credit for finding away to make the playoffs. This has been a really weird season for them, and yet again here they are in the playoffs...with Nick Foles at QB.
Big Dick Nick has turned into Big Game Nick and kind of reminds me of Jim Plunkett coming in relief leading teams to Super Bowls.
The Eagles to me have a ton of talent, and know what it takes to win a championship with the most important factor...great coaching.
They have been the hot upset pick this weekend, and I totally get why. They have the experience against a young, unproven team.
I just think everybody is sleeping on the Bears and their defense a little too much. Yes everybody will focus on the QB and how Mitch has been shaky at times this season, but this team finds a way to win with him. Their only loss since starting 3-3 was with fucking Chase Daniel so you can't hold that against them. The Bears just find a way to win with Mitch on the field, he hasn't lost since week 7.
I would not be surprised at all if the Eagles won this game, and I think taking the points is a smart play, and Eagles ML is the best value of the weekend. I just think this Bears defense is a fucking problem. Mack has been the new monster of the midway, Eddie Jackson is an absolute play maker, and I think it took so much for the Eagles to make it this far that they don't have enough in the tank to beat the Bears in Chicago. The one thing that worries me about the Bears is their special teams. I don't trust Cody Parkey outside of 35 yards.