Saturday, January 05, 2019

TransGriot 2018-19 NFL Playoff Predictions- Wildcard Weekend

The 2018 NFL season didn't result in me getting the prognostication title back, but still need to keep up my skills for when the 2019 season kicks off in September.

It's the NFL Wildcard Weekend round of the 2018-19 NFL playoffs, and time to get busy making those picks for today's and Sunday's games.

Saturday Playoff Games 

#6 Indianapolis Colts (10-6) vs #3 Houston Texans (11-5) on ABC at 3:35 PM CST

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This is the third round of a fight between two AFC South Division rivals in the Colts and the Texans that split the season series between them.

The Texans completed a worst to first season and overcame an 0-3 start to capture their fourth AFC South division title in the last five years. 

The Texans started a team record nine game winning steak with a 37-34 overtime win in Indy on September 30 against the Colts to get their crucial first win of the season and drop the Colts to 1-3. The Colts slid to 1-5 before they went on their own winning streak and won nine out of their last ten games. One of those wins was in Week 14 when they walked into NRG Stadium and ended the Texans streak with a 24-21 win.

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This playoff game is probably going to be determined by who has the ball last and whether the Texans secondary can stop Texans killer TY Hilton, who burned them for 199 yards in the game at NRG. 

In order to emerge victorious, the Texans defense needs to give our Houston homeboy Andrew Luck a very rude playoff homecoming and have him taste the NRG turf a few times while the Texans offensive line keeps Deshaun Watson's jersey clean and open holes for Lamar Miller to wreak havoc.

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Let's just say the Texans will be highly motivated to end the Colts season at NRG and move on, especially in light of the fact many pundits are picking the Colts.

.It'll be close, but I'm picking the Texans to win this game and go to the next round.

#5 Seattle Seahawks (10-6) vs #4 Dallas Cowboys (10-6) on FOX at 7:15 PM CST

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The Saturday nightcap is a rematch of a Week 3 game at CenturyLink Field in which the Seahawks emerged victorious with a 24-13 victory against the Cowboys.

But that was before the Cowboys added Amari Cooper via trade to add to their Ezekiel Elliott powered rushing attack and their defense started jelling.   This playoff game will also be played at Jerry World instead of the Pacific Northwest.

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Won't matter.  Even though the Cowboys won seven of their last eight games to finish the season and capture the NFC East title, the  Cowboys are 0-6 this year against teams with a mobile quarterback.  They held Russell Wilson to -1 yards rushing in that September 23 game and the Seahawks still got the win.

Seattle also comes into this game having won six of their last seven games down the stretch thanks to the NFL's best rushing attack.

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If you shut Amari Cooper and Ezekiel Elliott down, you pretty much shut down the Dallas Cowboy offense.  The Seahawks don't have the Legion of Boom patrolling their secondary anymore, but they do have a defense that is more than capable of executing that assignment.

It's one and done for that NFL franchise in North Texas as the Seahawks take this game to move on to the divisional round.

Sunday Playoff Games

#5 Los Angeles Chargers (12-4) vs #4 Baltimore Ravens (10-6) on CBS at 12:05 PM CST

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Like the Saturday playoff games, this one is a rematch of a Week 14 game in which the Ravens went to LA and rolled after administering a 22-10 beatdown at the StubHub Center against the Chargers. 

The AFC North Champion Ravens needed their defense to step up and make a season saving play against the precocious Cleveland Browns on fourth down last weekend to capture the division crown for the first time in six years and host this game at M&T Bank Stadium.

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The Chargers are no slouches.  They tied the Chiefs for the best record in the AFC and split the season series with them.   They lost out on the AFC West title and home field throughout the AFC playoffs on a tiebreaker because of division record (5-1 KC vs 4-2 LAC).

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This game being the early Sunday one may play a factor in the outcome. 

West coast teams have to deal with body clock issues as a result of the time change and cross country travel.   This plus playing against a confident Ravens team with a phenomenal defense to back up their rushing attack may be enough, despite them starting rookie Lamar Jackson in his first NFL playoff game against veteran QB Phillip Rivers who is having one of his best seasons.

I believe it will be a much closer game than the one in LA was, but because of location, location location and the Ravens already having beaten them once, think the Ravens will do so again.

#6 Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) vs #3 Chicago Bears (12-4)  on NBC at 3:35 PM CST.

This is the only playoff game that isn't a regular season rematch.

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The defending NFL champs won five of their last six games to get the number six seed and into the NFC playoff bracket in large part because Nick Foles, the guy who led them to that Super Bowl crown, is back under center again and the defense is starting to play the way they did during their championship run.

But Foles is dealing with a bruised rib suffered after Jadaveon Clowney clobbered him December 23 during that 32-30 win over the Texans.

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Now Foles and the Eagles have to face Khalil Mack and the Monsters of the Midway 2.0 at Soldier Field.

Da Bears clinched their first NFC North crown since 2010 and finished the season on a roll, winning nine of their last ten games    They also have their own good quarterback in Mitch Trubisky.

As to who will win this one?   As the defending champs, the Eagles will claw, scratch and fight in every second of this playoff game.   But I believe the Bears will handle their business and end the Eagles attempt to repeat as champs.

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