Predicting the first round of the NFL Playoffs
Today marks the kickoff of the 2019 NFL Playoffs, with two games set for both today and tomorrow. This afternoon we will be treated to the Indianapolis Colts vs. the Houston Texans, and tonight’s game features the Seattle Seahawks vs. the Dallas Cowboys. Tomorrow has the Los Angeles (still feels dirty to say) Chargers vs. the Baltimore Ravens and the Philadelphia Nick Foles (I mean Eagles) vs. the Chicago Bears. Let’s preview each matchup and pick a winner.
Indianapolis Colts vs. Houston Texans
The Colts are perhaps the most fitting ‘Cinderella’ in this year’s NFL largely due to the meteoric return of Andrew Luck, but also the revival of one of the league’s worst offensive lines (and therefore running game). Despite the Colts’ newfound offensive prowess, their defense remains a huge question mark, as they allowed opposing passers to connect on 70.8 percent of their throws this season, good (or should I say worst) for second-highest in the Super Bowl Era.
On Houston’s side, we see the continued development of star quarterback Deshaun Watson paired with another revived running game and extremely lethal receiving corps (by which I mean DeAndre Hopkins, especially considering the recently-acquired Demaryius Thomas is on the IR). However, unlike the Colts, the Texans have one of the league’s most respected defenses, and for good reason. And though the Colts’ O-Line is lookin’ mighty fine, anytime you have J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney rushing the passer, you’re bound to apply some pressure.
Seattle Seahawks vs. Dallas Cowboys
Ugh. Two teams who I despise. I know I have to pick a winner but if I had it my way they’d tie and then somehow be forced out of the Playoffs altogether. Anyways, onto the preview.
The Seahawks were picked by just about everybody to severely regress, what with the death of the Legion of Boom and all, and when Earl Thomas went down midseason the peanut gallery was loud and proud. However, Seattle managed to hang tough and slug their way to a 10-6 record behind the ever-fabulous Russell Wilson and a surprisingly league-average defense. Chris Carson has emerged as the featured back and we all know Doug Baldwin’s good for a catch (despite a down season). Throw in an All-Pro rookie punter and you got yourself a football team!
Then there’s Dallas. Sure, Dak Prescott has done nothing to make the Cowboys doubt him, but he hasn’t done much to earn their faith either. Everyone knows this whole team is Ezekiel Elliott and his O-Line, and with the Seahawks checking in as the 13th best rushing defense (according to yards/game) there should be some room to run. Oddly enough, Dallas has the 13th best passing defense (again according to yards/game), so there should also be room for Wilson and Co.
In the end, we have two slightly-above average defenses squaring off against two slightly-above average offenses, so it’ll be a game more of strategy and discipline, and we know who has more experience between these two.
Los Angeles Chargers vs. Baltimore Ravens
Wait, is Phillip Rivers an elite quarterback? He sure is playing like one this season, and his tailback Melvin Gordon III has provided fantasy owners across the land riches beyond their wildest dreams. The receivers look great, the offensive line is holding up, even Antonio Gates has come back to be productive. And don’t get me started on their new-and-improved special teams...if they had these guys a year ago they would’ve blown right through to the Super Bowl! Even L.A’s defense has been stellar, ranking ninth in the NFL in total yards, passing yards and rushing yards. Throw all these things together and you get arguably the most complete team in the AFC. Heck, they even beat the Kansas City Chiefs! Need I say more?
And then there’s the Ravens. Listen, I love, I mean love Lamar Jackson. Sure, by strict passer guidelines he’s bottom half, but the electricity he brings to the field is unmatched at his position (though Baker Mayfield is close). He has turned Baltimore into the second-most prolific rushing attack in the NFL (behind the Seahawks) and the passing game has been good enough to support it (kind of). On the defensive side, no one in the NFL allowed fewer yards, and they were second in points allowed (behind the Bears). They have been noted by many around the league as “the team you don’t want to see in the Playoffs”, and they have Justin Tucker, kicker-extraordinaire.
Nick Foles vs. Chicago Bears
Remember last year when Nick Foles stepped in and flawlessly led the Eagles to a Super Bowl victory? Well he’s back at it again and looking all the more ready this time around. The champs were experiencing a proverbial hangover this season as they slushed through their first 13 games until Carson Wentz went (ha) down with a fracture in his back. Foles came in the next week and promptly led the Eagles to a 30-23 victory over the Los Angeles Rams, then proceeded to lead them to two more straight wins, completing a three-game winning streak that pushed Philadelphia into this Playoff position. So basically: Nick Freakin’ Foles.
How about the renewed Chicago Bears? After multiple seasons of ineptitude, Chicago has turned it around big time in Mitchell Trubisky’s second season, and new head coach Matt Nagy deserves a lot of credit. Now that the Bears have (almost) completely figured out the offensive side of the ball, their defense is getting the recognition it deserves as it has shone in the limelight. As mentioned earlier, the Bears have allowed the fewest points in the NFL this season, and ranked third in total yards allowed. They are a turnover and sacking machine and they appear to be at full-strength charging into this matchup (Eddie Jackson, the intercepting, punt-returning wonder, looks like he will be able to go).
However, with all that said about the Bears … Nick Foles.
Prediction: Nick Foles
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