NFL playoffs 2019: Picks, predictions for wild-card round
Five teams from last year's postseason return this year to make another run at the Lombardi Trophy, but only one will compete in the wild-card round.
Philadelphia, the defending Super Bowl champions, are involved in a weekend slate that begins on Saturday and ends with the Eagles' Sunday showdown against the Chicago Bears.
The Houston Texans meet the Indianapolis Colts, while the Baltimore Ravens host the Los Angeles Chargers in a wide-open AFC, with Dallas entertaining Seattle in the NFC.
Here we make our wild-card weekend picks.
Indianapolis Colts @ Houston Texans
Indianapolis enter the postseason on a hot streak after winning nine of their last 10 regular-season games. Houston started 0-3 before reeling off nine straight wins.
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has starred during his comeback campaign from a shoulder injury that had hampered his previous two seasons, completing 67.3 percent of his passes for 4,593 yards and 39 touchdowns with 15 interceptions. Meanwhile, second-year quarterback Deshaun Watson started all 16 games for the Texans after a season-ending ACL injury cut short his dynamic rookie year.
On the other side of the ball, Indianapolis and Houston's defenses rank 11th and 12th, respectively, in the league.
Get ready for a well-balanced matchup that will prove why Houston won the AFC South ahead of their rivals.
Prediction: Texans 24 Colts 17
Seattle Seahawks @ Dallas Cowboys
The Seahawks will not be facing the same Cowboys squad they defeated in September, as the addition of wide receiver Amari Cooper came in October and has since bolstered Dallas' already-stacked offense.
Despite the Cowboys' late surge behind quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott, the Seahawks still boast the league's top rushing game, thanks in large part to Chris Carson running for 1,151 yards and nine scores this season. The experience Russell Wilson brings to the table also cannot be discounted, as the quarterback has played in six of Seattle's past seven playoff appearances.
5 - Five facts to know before the #NFLPlayoffs kick off their weekend, including why history is not on the #Seahawks' side entering their game against the #DallasCowboys. Preview. pic.twitter.com/F34uEsUuBS— OptaJerry (@OptaJerry) January 3, 2019
The Cowboys have a strong presence at home and rested starters in Week 17, but that might not be enough to stop the Seahawks.
Prediction: Seahawks 20 Cowboys 16
Los Angeles Chargers @ Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens have every reason to be optimistic after clinching their first AFC North title since 2012, especially since their win at Los Angeles in Week 16 was key to taking the division.
Rookie Lamar Jackson, who will become the youngest quarterback in NFL history to start a playoff game at age 21, has been sensational. The dual-threat playmaker has rushed for 695 yards and five touchdowns while passing for 1,201 yards and six scores. Furthermore, Baltimore's top-ranked defense will make it difficult for even the most seasoned veteran, like quarterback Philip Rivers, to move the ball down the field.
Still, the Chargers have been known to cool even the hottest streaks — and against all odds on the road.
Prediction: Chargers 24 Ravens 21
Philadelphia Eagles @ Chicago Bears
Could this postseason be deja vu all over again for Philly and Nick Foles? Carson Wentz's backup has gone 4-1 this season, so do not rule out the possibility.
The Eagles have had their struggles but turned to a familiar saviour to salvage their chances of defending their crown. However, Foles suffered a setback of his own when he sustained bruised ribs in the regular-season finale. While he will suit up to play through the pain, do not expect the task to be easy.
Khalil Mack and Chicago's top-ranked defense will give the Eagles enough trouble, but first-year Bears head coach Matt Nagy has also shaped second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky into a top-three signal caller in terms of quarterback rating.
Prediction: Bears 21 Eagles 10