It's going to be a fun weekend of playoff football.
Now that the NFL regular season is over, football fans can finally find solace in the fact that the playoffs are here. Even if your favorite team didn’t make the cut, there is no denying that this is the most exciting time of the season.
As of today, 12 teams remain in contention to win the Super Bowl. Four of those teams, the New England Patriots, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Los Angeles Rams, and the New Orleans Saints will get a bye to the second round. The other eight teams will get to battle it out this weekend to see whose season continues, and who will be headed to the beach for an early vacation.
Since the Wild-Card weekend starts tomorrow, now is as good a time as ever to take a closer look at each game and see how these matchups stack up.
Saturday, January 5th
Game 1: Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans
Where to watch: ABC and ESPN at 4:35 P.M. ET
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The first matchup of the weekend might be the most contentious considering this is the only game that will be played between divisional rivals. The Houston Texans finished with the third seed in the AFC, while the Colts squeaked in with the sixth seed after defeating the Tennessee Titans 33-17 last Sunday.
Houston finished first in the AFC South this season with a record of 11-5, while the Colts were second in the division at 10-6. The two teams played each other twice this season, with each team picking up a win. In the first matchup between the two, the Texans came away with a 37-34 win in overtime. Both teams played each other again on December 9th, with the Colts winning 24-21.
Indianapolis had a strong season on the offensive side of the ball. They averaged 27.1 points per game and 386.2 yards per game. Their points per game average was the fifth best in the NFL, while they had the sixth best passing game in the league, at 278.8 yards a game, according to ESPN. Meanwhile, the Texans finished 11th in scoring with 25.1 points per game. They didn’t fare as well when it came to yardage, finishing 15th.
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These matchup between these two squads gets interesting when we look at defense. The Colts and the Texans finished neck and neck in yards allowed per game, finishing 11th and 12 respectively. As far as points allowed per game, Houston was dominant, only giving up 19.8, which was good enough for fourth place in the league, according to ESPN.
The quarterback matchup will also be an intriguing storyline. Colts QB Andrew Luck finished the year with 39 touchdowns, 15 interceptions, and 4593 passing yards. On the other end, Texans QB Deshaun Watson will be making his playoff debut Saturday. He finished his first full season 26 touchdowns, 9 interceptions and 4165 passing yards. All of these stats are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.
If the Texans win, they will take on the New England Patriots but if Indianapolis wins, the Colts will take on Kansas City in the next round.
Game 2: Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys
Where to watch: Fox at 8:15 P.M. ET
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After starting the season 0-2, Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks clawed their way back, finishing with a record of 10-6 and securing the fifth seed in the NFC. Meanwhile, the Dallas Cowboys took advantage of a week division, finishing first in the NFC East with a 10-6 record. This is the only wild-card matchup where both teams have the same amount of wins and losses.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Cowboys had a strong season, finishing sixth overall in points allowed, giving up an average of 20.3 a game. Much of the team’s success was thanks to defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence who finished with 10.5 sacks this season. Seattle on the other hand, finished 11th in points allowed with 21.7 per game. Defensive end Frank Clark was a big-time player for the Seahawks notching 13 sacks, according to ESPN.
The Seahawks have a huge advantage over the Cowboys when it comes to offense. Seattle averaged 26.8 points per game, good enough for sixth in the league. Despite finishing as a top 12 team, Dallas only finished 22nd in scoring. This was partially due to quarterback Dak Prescott only picking up 22 touchdowns, which matches his career low from last season, according to ESPN.
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Seahawks QB Wilson avoided a disastrous season by picking up 35 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, and 3448 passing yards. Wilson was helped out by his favorite wide receiving target, Doug Baldwin who had five touchdowns and 618 yards receiving, according to Pro-Football-Reference.
Both teams played each other earlier in the season on September 23rd. The Seahawks won that game 24-13 and kept Prescott to only 168 yards passing. Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 127 yards in that game, making him a player Seattle will have to watch out for on Saturday.
If the Bears defeat the Eagles on Sunday, the winner of this game will play against the New Orleans Saints in the second round. If the Eagles win, the winner will of this match will get the Rams.
Sunday, January 6th
Game 3: Los Angeles Chargers at Baltimore Ravens
Where to watch: CBS at 1:05 P.M. ET
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This next matchup is one that really should have never happened. The Baltimore Ravens finished the season with a record of 10-6, and the Los Angeles Chargers finished 12-4. Because the Chargers were in a division with Kansas City, who also finished 12-4 and won the AFC West on a tie-break, they were relegated to a wild-card spot. This means that even though they have a better record than the Ravens, Baltimore gets the home-field advantage.
When it comes to offense, the Chargers, led by veteran quarterback Philip Rivers, are at a clear advantage. They finished sixth in the league in points per game with 26.8 and were 11th in yards per game. Meanwhile, the Ravens averaged 24.3 points a game which was good enough for 13th in the league, according to ESPN. The Ravens will also be playing rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson who has no playoff experience and finished the year with six touchdowns and three interceptions.
Defensively, the Ravens shine, something that was apparent when the Ravens beat the Chargers 22-10 back on December 22nd. In that game, the Ravens held the Chargers to less than 250 total yards, and only 51 yards rushing. Baltimore gave up the least amount of yards per game in the entire league, with 292.9. They also excelled in points allowed per game, giving up 17.9, good enough for second in the league.
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Los Angeles has also been solid defensively this season, although nowhere near as consistent as the Ravens. They gave up 20.6 points per game and 337 yards per game. These totals were good enough for eighth and ninth in the league respectively, according to ESPN.
The Ravens will come into this game with a three-game winning streak. Whoever wins will face the Kansas City Chiefs unless the Colts upset the Texans. That would mean the winner of this game plays New England.
Game 4: Philadelphia Eagles at Chicago Bears
Where to watch: NBC at 4:40 P.M. ET
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The final game of the weekend will be played between the defending Super Bowl champions, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Chicago Bears. The Bears haven’t been to the postseason since 2010, while the Eagles just barely picked up the sixth and final seed in the NFC.
It was a tumultuous season for the Eagles. The team decided to go back to quarterback Carson Wentz, despite Nick Foles leading the team to a Super Bowl win. Wentz was the starter last season, and his phenomenal play is why they went back to him. Although for the last stretch of the season, it’s been all Foles who has led the team to three wins a row, including a win against the second place Rams. Going into this game, it seems as though the Eagles are finally comfortable with who they have in the pocket.
Meanwhile, the Bears and QB Mitchell Trubisky defied all expectations, finishing 12-4 and winning a depleted NFC North. Trubisky finished his first full season with 24 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, according to Pro-Football-Reference.
Chicago was dominant on defense this year thanks to players like Khalil Mack who had 12.5 sacks this season after being traded from Oakland. They also had the number one rush and points per game defense in the league. Their pass defense was seventh and their yards allowed per game was third, according to NFL.com. On offense, the Bears weren’t as strong, averaging 26.3 points per game, good enough for ninth in the league.
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At the other end, Philadelphia was average in most categories. They were 18th in points per game, 14th in average total yards, and 28th in rushing yards. Defensively the team was just barely above average in points allowed per game finishing 12th in the league, according to NFL.com. Although they did finish 30th in passing yards which is something Trubisky will want to take advantage of if he wants to give the Bears a chance to win.
These teams did not play each other in the regular season, so it will be a clean slate when we see them take to the field on Sunday. If the Eagles win they will play New Orleans but if the Bears win, they will play the Rams.
Which teams do you think are going to win this weekend?