Here’s how we see the 4 Wild Card games playing out:
Indianapolis Colts @ Houston Texans
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Harris Ahmadzai: The AFC South rubber match has the makings of a potential shootout. Through two games this year, the Texans and Colts have played to an aggregate stalemate of 58-58. With both teams having won on the road in the regular season, Houston finally protects home field with prolific contributions from Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins.
Prediction: 31-28 Texans
Blake Hoffman: These two AFC South squads are obviously plenty familiar with one another, and considering each of the first two matchups this year was decided by a field goal, I’d expect this one to be no different. Between the home-field advantage, a better defense, and possessing more dynamic players on offense, I’ll take Deshaun Watson and the Texans to eke out a victory over the red-hot Colts.
Prediction: 20-17 Texans
Dylan Fraychineaud: Just four weeks ago, Indy went into Houston and put an end to the Texans’ nine-game winning streak. On Saturday, Andrew Luck will lead the Colts to yet another victory in H-Town. In a lower scoring game than many expect, Luck will throw three TD’s to propel the Colts onward to Kansas City.
Prediction: 28-17 Colts
Jason Fray: There won’t be any secrets when it comes to this contest. The familiarity between these AFC South division foes is considerable. Indianapolis has won nine of its last ten — including a Dec. 9 victory over the Texans in Houston. As of Thursday, Houston is only a one-point favorite. Fans everywhere are hopping on the Andrew Luck bandwagon. For this reason, I feel like the Texans will be highly motivated to perform well at home.
Prediction: 28-27 Texans
Seattle Seahawks @ Dallas Cowboys
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Harris Ahmadzai: Dallas, winners in seven of its last eight, is riding the momentum built from the Amari Cooper trade. Seattle, winners in six of its last seven, sports a rejuvenated defense and the league’s top rushing attack. This one likely comes down to the two quarterbacks, and I tend to side with the guy that has previous experience winning in the biggest moments.
Prediction: 21-17 Seahawks
Blake Hoffman: The two most run-oriented teams in the postseason will leave fans wondering if they just watched a re-run of a game from the 1970s. Facing stacked defensive fronts, both rushing attacks will struggle, and it’ll come down to Russell Wilson vs. Dak Prescott. I’ll side with the Super Bowl XLVIII champion.
Prediction: 17-13 Seahawks
Dylan Fraychineaud: In a predictably low scoring game, Seattle will leave Dallas with the win. This game will come down to the line of scrimmage. Seattle wields the No. 1 rushing attack, while Dallas is the fifth best team stopping the run. Between Chris Carson and Russell Wilson, Seattle will do just enough to advance. With these two teams being evenly matched, Wilson will be the ultimate difference.
Prediction: 19-10 Seahawks
Jason Fray: The analysis for this game will be quite simple. Seattle will attempt to stack the box versus Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys’ vaunted run game. In the process, it’ll force a group of underwhelming receivers and a highly mediocre quarterback (Dak Prescott) to beat what’s regarded as the NFL’s best secondary (from a statistical standpoint). Not only that, but Seattle comes into this contest with the better quarterback, the better head coach, and the more impressive pedigree.
Prediction: 23-20 Seahawks
Los Angeles Chargers @ Baltimore Ravens
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Harris Ahmadzai: The Ravens were nearly perfect in their Week 16 dismantling of the Chargers. Baltimore’s defense held Philip Rivers and company to just 10 points, stifling one of the league’s best offenses. I don’t believe they can be close to perfect again versus this stacked Chargers team. A returning Keenan Allen and Melvin Gordon will be fresh and ready to go for this one. As long as Rivers can take care of the ball, and the Chargers defense can limit big plays, LA will be moving on to the next round.
Prediction: 24-17 Chargers
Blake Hoffman: Only two weeks removed from a Week 16 showdown where the Chargers were humiliated on their “home field” by the Ravens, this one should play out much differently. The Chargers have more talent on both sides of the ball, and Philip Rivers should be able to outduel a 21 year-old in Lamar Jackson who is making his first postseason start.
Prediction: 24-20 Chargers
Dylan Fraychineaud: Including its 22-10 road victory over the Chargers in Week 16, Baltimore finished the regular season 6-1 with Lamar Jackson under center. It is incredibly difficult to pick against the Ravens. However, I believe the Chargers will overcome Baltimore’s intimidating defense and make the requisite adjustments in order to notch a victory this time around. Keenan Allen will be the recipient of two Philip Rivers touchdown passes en route to the upset win.
Prediction: 23-20 Chargers
Jason Fray: A 1:05 ET kickoff time is not ideal for a Chargers team traveling across the country. While LA will be more disciplined than they were in their Week 16 matchup in defending Lamar Jackson versus zone-read/RPO situations, it’s unlikely that it can slow down Baltimore’s ferocious pass rush. Rivers hasn’t won a playoff game since 2013, and I don’t expect that to change. LA’s talent advantage will ultimately be mitigated by the travel, Baltimore’s prowess in running the football, and the Ravens’ ability to get after the quarterback.
Prediction: 20-16 Ravens
Philadelphia Eagles @ Chicago Bears
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Harris Ahmadzai: There’s something about this Eagles team. Ever since Carson Wentz went down, the defense has played better, the rushing attack looks formidable, and the offense has been humming. Chicago poses a unique threat as a dominant defense with one of the better home-field advantages in the league, but I’ve learned better than to bet against Nick Foles in a must-win game.
Prediction: 27-21 Eagles
Blake Hoffman: The legend of Nick Foles continues… for a few more days. Leading the Eagles back to the postseason is quite the accomplishment, but there will be no repeat of last season. Playing in front of an energized crowd, the Bears’ defense will suffocate a bland Eagles offense and march to the divisional round for the first time since 2010.
Prediction: 23-17 Bears
Dylan Fraychineaud: Nick Foles might be a sorcerer. For the second year in a row, Foles has the Eagles rolling heading into the playoffs. However, Chicago’s defense will overwhelm Foles and the Philly attack. It may be ugly, but the Bears will do enough to book a trip to Los Angeles for another meeting with the Rams.
Prediction: 24-14 Bears
Jason Fray: This is a tricky game for the Bears. Though wildly talented, the team doesn’t have much in the way of postseason experience. They’ll be hosting the defending champs in a game where they should win. This contest will come down to quarterback play. Mitch Trubisky needs to take care of the ball, and the Bears’ elite front seven must harass Nick Foles. While I wouldn’t be surprised to see Philadelphia upset Chicago, the sense is that this team is far too talented across the board.
Prediction: 24-17 Bears