Here it is, the first week of playoffs and while the Jaguars aren’t in it, the best teams, are. Instead of doing an AFCS game preview, this will replace that with my NFL Wild Card game predictions.
SATURDAY 4:35 ESPN
6th Seed Colts (10-6) vs 3rd Seed Texans (11-5)
This is a home game for Houston, they have a better record and therefore should get the nod. I disagree. Indy has a better offense, slightly better defense, much better passing and about even rushing.
In the cold of January, that rushing stat would be worrisome, but the Texans play in a dome, as do the Colts. Which means, passing and defense is what will matter more – for this game.
Houston’s defense only allows 19.8 points a game, while Indy gives up 21.5. Against QB’s, Houston is 13th and Indy 16th in total QBR. I look at this number because it shows how they did in allowing completions. The real eye opener though is how many each allowed in passing TD’s and for Indy it was only 21, for the Texans is was 28.
The Colts score 27.1 a game and the Texans 25.1.
Against the rush, Houston is third in TD’s allowed, while Indy is 10th. Both teams have the same interceptions, but Houston has five more sacks. Since the Colts have protected Luck the best in the league, the big advantage goes to Indy since Deshaun Watson has been creamed the most.
Away teams tend to do far worse in the playoffs than the home teams, usually it’s because the home team earned it by being better. In this case, Indy got off to a slow start because they have a new head coach and had a rusty QB. Both are now clicking. I chose Indy by 6.
5th Seed Seahawks (10-6) vs 4th Cowboys (10-6)
Lord, I don’t like Dallas and can’t be objective when looking at stats. Nine is the number that matters. That’s how many rushing TD’s Seattle has allowed. In the red zone, they’re keeping teams out of the end zone.
Dallas’ offense is wrapped around Zeke Elliot and the run game. Take him away and stick a dagger in their heart, their defense be damned.
Seattle allows one more point a game than Dallas and that’s coming from the pass. They’re not great against it, but when it comes to tossing them, they’ve got Dallas beat by 13 TD’s.
Dallas has to find a way to keep up in scoring in order to win. They lag by 5 points per game, hence nine is the key. Nine means the Seahawks have had games with zero rushing TD’s allowed. Do that vs Dallas and you’ve got a big win for Seattle.
In my subjective view point, Seattle plays bend don’t break defense while Dallas plays more flashy, that can get them into trouble. And FYI, Seattle has more rushing TD’s than Dallas. 15 to 13. My prediction, Seahawks by 7 because Dak Prescott will be strip sacked.
SUNDAY 1:05 CBS
5th Seed Chargers (12-4) vs 4th Seed Ravens (10-6)
LA has a big thing going for them, they travel well. 7-1 to be exact which means they aren’t afraid of playing in loud stadiums, plus they have shown time changes don’t bother them, either. In their first match-up, offensive penalties killed them. This is an area to see if it was cleaned up – it’ll go to coaching.
The Chargers have to stop the run, which they’re not bad at, but they’re going to need to be great. Baltimore is number 3rd at the run TD’s, so not a good match-up.
Against the pass, Baltimore is second in QBR and LA is 9th. Both teams on total defense is top ten. Offense is where the gap is.
When it comes to points on the board, LA has scored almost twice as many TD’s. So, this game is about slowing Rivers through the air and stopping the Ravens on the ground. Kind of funny that rivers run on the ground and ravens fly through the air but each team is the reverse. Yes, I’m goofy.
In January (outside), the run game and defense, win. No one is really talking up the Charger’s run game, but they have three less TD’s than Baltimore and more yards per carry and that’s with Melvin Gordon missing time. Both defenses have given up 11 rushing TD’s.
Baltimore keeps points to 17.9 a game while LA scores 26.8. Baltimore is scoring 24.3, while LA gives up 20.6. Based on just this, LA wins by a FG in a slug fest.
6th Seed Eagles (9-7) vs 3rd Seed Bears (12-4)
The Eagles are the feel good team this season, once Nick Foles came in and won. The difference between this season and last is one, teams have now seen enough of him in this offense to know him and two, da Bears.
When it comes to consistency, I’ll take Foles over Mitch Trubisky, but Matt Nagy has found a way to scheme around him and it works. Plus, Chicago has 50 sacks. I don’t think Nick or that OL is ready for Khalil Mack.
Where the two teams are equal is on defending the pass for the score. Both have allowed 22. This opens the door for the quarterbacks to have a decent day provided they don’t get creamed, first. However, Chicago has intercepted the pass an amazing 27 times, needless to say, that’s very bad for Foles. His mental game must be on high alert.
Foles’ total QBR is ranked lower middle, Trubisky is ranked third. Which shows he makes plays even in his inconsistency and that’s what matters. Not to mention, Nick has bruised ribs – against a team with 50 sacks. I’m not seeing a happy ending for the fairytale.
Philadelphia has done better as the season wore on, their defense found its legs, but they’re not a top team and on the road in Chicago, I predict da Bears by 14. This is my one blow-out game.