Tuesday, January 1, 2019

2018-19 NFL playoff predictions (Part 1 - Wild Card)

Happy New Year! As we begin 2019, it’s time to make the first of many NFL playoff predictions. This post will focus on the Wild Card games; future posts will predict the outcome of the Divisional and Championship games, and eventually the Super Bowl.

Let’s go.


#6 Indianapolis Colts at #3 Houston Texans
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The Indianapolis Colts are the reverse Carolina Panthers: start slow, then catch fire and surge into the playoffs all guns blazing. The Houston Texans also started slowly with a 0-3, but quickly soared with a nine-game winning streak that curiously started with a victory over the Colts and ended with a loss to the Colts.

A competitive battle will be fought, but the Colts will use their momentum to win the day.

Prediction: Colts win, 28-21.

Result: Colts win, 21-7.

Comments after the game:
Houston, we have a problem: The Texans are allergic to playoff success.

A competitive game, this was not. The Colts dominated the first half, inflicting enough damage to prevent the Texans from mounting any comeback in the much slower second half. The Texans offense was reported missing for the first three quarters of the game.

The Colts move on to face the top-ranked Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium!


#5 Los Angeles Chargers at #4 Baltimore Ravens
The Los Angeles Chargers have spent the season in the shadow of their AFC West rivals, the Kansas City Chiefs. Still, that hasn’t stopped the Chargers from surging to 12-4 on the season, quietly posting win after win while most attention was focused elsewhere. The Baltimore Ravens, meanwhile, struggled all through the season until their bye week, finally reversing their misfortunes by winning six of their last seven games and winning the AFC North.

The Chargers and the Ravens have met once this season, just recently on December 22 when the Ravens won 22-10. The Chargers have had a problem this season: when they lose, they either lose by one point, or by ten or more points. The latter happened three times, once each against the Rams, the Chiefs, and the Ravens.

Unless the Chargers can crack the fierce Ravens defense that allowed only 287 points this season, there is little hope of the Chargers being anything more than one and done.

Prediction: Ravens win, 24-14.

Result: Chargers win, 23-17.

Comments after the game:
We have stunning highlights of the Baltimore Ravens:

Someone forgot to inform the Ravens that they're supposed to fight for the right to play in the Super Bowl, not the Fumble Bowl.


#6 Philadelphia Eagles at #3 Chicago Bears
Through much of the seasons, there was a real fear that the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles would fail to even make the playoffs. The Eagles were an inconsistent trainwreck throughout their first ten games, losing six of their first ten games and culminating in a humiliating 48-7 defeat inflicted by the New Orleans Saints.

The rout seemed to have invigorated the Eagles into high gear as they suddenly started winning again, taking five of their last six games. The Eagles’ wishes for a playoff berth were granted as the Minnesota Vikings lost their last game against the Chicago Bears and allowed the Eagles to seize the final playoff spot.

Now the Eagles must thank the Bears by fighting them at Soldier Field. No easy task, as the Bears have transformed from a trainwreck in previous seasons to a defensive powerhouse this season. Indeed, the Bears allowed the fewest points in the league this season at 283.

The Eagles may have Nick Foles, but the Bears have a brick wall.

Prediction: Bears win, 27-10.

Result: Eagles win, 16-15.

Comments after the game:

Are you kidding me?!

After a back-and-forth low-scoring affair, the Bears were poised to emerge victorious with a last-second field goal. Fate had other plans, however, as Cody Parkey's field goal attempt bounced off the upright, bounced again off the crossbar, and out.

Was Blair Walsh anywhere near Soldier Field today?


#5 Seattle Seahawks at #4 Dallas Cowboys
If this was supposed to be a rebuilding season for the Seattle Seahawks, they must have missed the memo. The Seahawks have returned to the playoffs with a 10-6 record after missing the postseason last year. The Seahawks have been mostly consistent throughout the season; when the Seahawks lose, the scores are always close, never a blowout. When the Seahawks are at full strength, however, they are damn near unstoppable. If there are any problems, it’s almost always Seattle’s offensive line.

The Dallas Cowboys, on the other hand, started the season sluggishly before surging late season by winning seven of their last eight games. Of concern was one of those last eight games, when the Cowboys were shut out 23-0 by the Colts. Still, the Cowboys have the tools to win, it’s just a matter of whether they run into a full-strength Seahawks squad.

Prediction: Seahawks win, 24-17.

Result: Cowboys win, 24-22.

Comments after the game:

Here's a novel concept: when the running game clearly isn't working, pass the damn ball. But no, apparently this is too complex a concept for the Seahawks' playcallers. Run-run-pass before three-and-out happened too damn often tonight.

Next season, the Seahawks desperately need to let Russell Wilson take control rather than have him be crippled by predictable playcalls. Also, today's performance by the Seahawks kicking game continues to beg the question: why did the Seahawks let Steven Hauschka go?
The Seahawks exceeded expectations when they reached the playoffs this year, but moral victories count for nothing on the road to the Super Bowl. 

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