After 17 grueling weeks, the NFL playoffs have finally arrived. While there are plenty of familiar teams back in the mix – including the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles after a wild finish to the regular season – there are also some new faces in the mix. This weekend’s action starts off with the wild-card round where three of the four games are regular-season rematches.
Indianapolis Colts @ Houston Texans
Saturday, 4:35 p.m. ET
Odds: Texans -2
Despite winning 11 of their final 13 games, there are a few things working against the Texans entering Wild Card Weekend. First, Houston is dealing with a number of key injuries on both sides of the football (Demaryius Thomas, who is out, and Johnathan Joseph, who is questionable). Second, the Texans lost two of their final four games to miss out on a top-two seed and a first-round bye. Third, they allowed the most sacks in the NFL this season.
The Colts are not only rolling on offense but their defense has really stepped up, allowing just 16.3 points per game over their final four contests. The Texans are favored but they’ll have a tough time stopping a Colts team that’s lost just once in its last 11 games.
Seattle Seahawks @ Dallas Cowboys
Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET
Odds: Cowboys -2.5
Sticking with teams that have been red-hot over the second half of the regular season, the Cowboys and Seahawks fit the bill. The Cowboys have won seven of their last eight while Seattle won six of its final seven contests.
The key to this matchup is Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott. He averaged 4.9 yards per carry and had 48 receptions in the second half of the season. Seattle’s run defense has had problems all season, giving up 4.9 yards per carry (30th in the NFL). They beat the Cowboys at home earlier in the year when Zeke had 127 yards on just 16 carries but the Cowboys had three turnovers. This contest is likely to be far different if Dallas protects the ball but runs it just as effectively.
Los Angeles Chargers @ Baltimore Ravens
Sunday, 1:05 p.m. ET
Odds: Ravens -2.5
The second AFC wild-card game features another rematch with the Ravens visiting the Chargers after beating them 22-10 in Los Angeles in Week 16. Philip Rivers and company had no answers for the Baltimore defense, as they were held to just 10 points. Rivers threw for just 181 yards and two interceptions and he was sacked four times. Meanwhile, the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson threw for 204 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 39 yards on the ground.
The Chargers need to find a way to slow down the Ravens ground game or the rematch will produce a similar result to the first meeting – especially since this one is in Baltimore this time around.
Philadelphia Eagles @ Chicago Bears
Sunday, 4:40 p.m. ET
Odds: Bears -6
One week ago, it seemed as though Philadelphia was destined to miss the playoffs altogether. Fast-forward seven days and with a little help from Chicago, the Eagles are back in the postseason. Nick Foles has completed 69.8 percent of his pass attempts while throwing for 1,192 yards and five touchdowns with three interceptions. Does he have another magical Super Bowl run in him? A ferocious Chicago defense that allows just 17.5 points per game at home (fifth-best) will have a lot to say about that.