Wild Card Weekend is almost here, folks. It's time to stop watching the Antonio Brown drama for at least a couple days and dig into the opening round of the 2018-19 NFL playoffs. We have eight teams in action Saturday and Sunday, and four more awaiting the winners.
The four on breaks are the Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams.
Fortunately, fans shouldn't have a difficult time watching all four games on the slate; no two games will air at the same time. For those wanting to catch all the action, we have the full viewing schedule here. We're also going to run down the latest lines and over/unders, according to OddsShark, and pick a winner for each game.
Wild Card Weekend 2019
Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans
When: Saturday, January 5 at 4:35 p.m. ET
TV and Live Stream: ESPN, ABC and WatchESPN
Line, Over/Under: HOU -1.5, 48.5
We saw this year how silly it is to count out teams early in the season. The Houston Texans started out 0-3 and went on to win the AFC South. The Indianapolis Colts were 1-5 and managed to reach this third matchup with the rival Texans.
Both of these teams are dangerous, as they have essentially been playing playoff football since the second month of the season.
The Colts have been the hotter team down the stretch. They are balanced, they have a fully healthy Andrew Luck and they don't have a disappointment an offensive line. Luck has been sacked 18 times this season. Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson has been sacked on 62 occasions.
Indianapolis has also needed every single win over the final month of the regular season just to stay alive in the playoff race. The Colts are used to this, even more so than Houston is.
"We've been kind of win-or-go-home here for a while," offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo said, per Andrew Walker the team's official website. "It's nothing new to this team and the young guys have really been in that position already."
Indianapolis won its most recent matchup with Houston. It will do enough to win this one.
Projected Winner: Colts
Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys
When: Saturday, January 5 at 8:15 p.m. ET
TV and Live Stream: Fox and Fox Sports Go
Line, Over/Under: DAL -1.5, 43
While the Dallas Cowboys may no longer be America's Team—the Cleveland Browns seem to be stealing that mantle—they are a bit of a feelgood story. Dallas was stumbling early in the season, Dak Prescott was struggling to push the ball downfield and, at 3-5, the Cowboys were staring up at the top of the NFC East.
Then Dallas traded for wideout Amari Cooper in late October. He experienced a career resurgence, Prescott suddenly became a quick-strike threat and the offense became a realistic complement to the defense. Love them or hate them, it's fun to have the Cowboys back in the playoffs.
The Seattle Seahawks, on the other hand, are a team opponents shouldn't want to see in the playoffs. They boast an opportunistic defense, the league's top rushing attack and a Super Bowl-winning quarterback in Russell Wilson.
This one is likely to devolve into a low-scoring defensive struggle—Dallas allows just 20.2 points per game, while Seattle concedes just 21.7. Both teams are built to win this kind of matchup, but we have to give the edge to the Seahawks.
Wilson has shown he can thrive when the game is on the line. If the game comes down to the final minutes, the Seahawks know they can trust him. The Cowboys cannot say the same about Prescott.
Projected Winner: Seahawks
Los Angeles Chargers at Baltimore Ravens
When: Sunday, January 6 at 1:05 p.m. ET
TV and Live Stream: CBS and CBS All Access
Line, Over/Under: BAL -3, 41.5
Those who discounted Lamas Jackson's ability to be an effective rookie quarterback look a little silly. While the Louisville product does need work as a passer, he's been a tremendous dual threat, he's made some big-time throws, he's leading a dominant rushing attack and he has the Ravens in the playoffs for the first time since 2014.
"Right now, we're playing very good complementary football," wide receiver Willie Snead said, per Edward Lee of the Baltimore Sun. "And that's what it took to win the AFC North, and that's what's going to help us in the playoffs."
Baltimore's balance is what is going to give the Los Angeles Chargers trouble. L.A. is one of the most complete teams in the league, but it will have to execute perfectly to have a chance. Baltimore has the league's second-best scoring defense and a rushing attack that can shorten the game.
One or two mistakes could be enough to doom the Chargers.
That's what happened the last time these two teams met. Philip Rivers tossed a pair of interceptions, and a fumble-six sealed the deal for the Ravens defense. One or two slip-ups will hand Los Angeles an early postseason exit.
Projected Winner: Ravens
Philadelphia Eagles at Chicago Bears
When: Sunday, January 6 at 4:40 p.m. ET
TV and Live Stream: NBC and NBC Sports App
Line, Over/Under: CHI -6, 41
Wild Card Weekend ends with one of the more intriguing contrasts of the postseason. The Chicago Bears are in the playoffs for the first time since 2010 after going from worst to first in the NFC North. The Philadelphia Eagles, meanwhile, nearly missed the playoffs after winning last year's Super Bowl.
Philadelphia got into the postseason, though, thanks in large part to another run by backup quarterback Nick Foles. The Super Bowl LII MVP may not be as physically gifted as Carson Wentz, but he's made the offense more explosive and more efficient, and he gives the Eagles an edge in this game.
That edge is experience. The Bears have a functional running game and an elite defense. What they don't have is a consistent signal-caller with playoff experience. Mitchell Trubisky has shown flashes of potential in Matt Nagy's offense, but he hasn't shown the ability to put the offense on his back and carry it in a clutch situation.
Chicago is going to have to win with its defense in this game, and Philadelphia is in a better position to counter that strategy with Foles instead of Wentz. Foles has been sacked an average of 1.8 times per game this year. That average was 2.1 for Wentz.
Expect Foles to deliver down the stretch while Trubisky falters and for the Eagles to pull out a last-second shocker.
Projected Winner: Eagles