NFL Playoff Bracket 2019: Wild Card Weekend Schedule and Picture Predictions

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 4, 2019

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson warms up before an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2018, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press

The unpredictability of the NFL will be on full display during the upcoming Wild Card Weekend.

Only one of the eight teams on the schedule made the playoffs last season. That's the Philadelphia Eagles, who are both defending Super Bowl champions and this weekend's biggest underdog, per OddsShark.

This league never makes it easy on prognosticators, and the single-elimination format only increases the difficulty. But we'll see if our crystal ball is up to the task with predictions on all four first-round contests.

               

Wild Card Weekend Schedule

Saturday, Jan. 5

Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans, 4:35 p.m. ET on ESPN/ABC

Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys, 8:15 p.m. ET on Fox

            

Sunday, Jan. 6

Los Angeles Chargers at Baltimore Ravens, 1:05 p.m. ET on CBS

Philadelphia Eagles at Chicago Bears, 4:40 p.m. ET on NBC

                 

Playoff Bracket

                

Colts at Texans

This looks like the definition of a coin flip. The two AFC South squads split their season series 1-1 with each side scoring 58 points apiece.

Each boasts a borderline elite quarterback-receiver combo with Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton leading Indy's passing attack, and Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins doing the same for Houston. They both have top-half rushers, too, in Marlon Mack (Colts) and Lamar Miller (Texans), though they struggled to look the part in the two matchups since each rush defense sits among the top six in yards per carry.

While Watson will be making his postseason debut, this will be Luck's seventh playoff tilt. That extra experience looks like the difference-maker to propel the Colts to a close victory.

Prediction: Colts 24, Texans 21

                 

Seahawks at Cowboys

The Cowboys have a ton going for them in this matchup, starting with home-field advantage. Dallas tied for the second-best home mark in football this season, going 7-1 at Jerry's World with their lone slip-up coming back in November.

A healthy Ezekiel Elliott might be the NFL's best back. With two rushing titles in three seasons, the No. 4 pick in 2016 is making that point hard to argue against. Wideout Amari Cooper also hit the ground running after a midseason trade from Oakland, snaring six of his seven touchdowns after the trade and twice reaching 180-plus receiving yards.

All that said, Russell Wilson is a proven playoff performer, Chris Carson's emergence has given Seattle a top-tier running back and Tyler Lockett has smoothly transitioned into No. 1 receiver status. For as much as Dallas has going its way, it's hard to take Dak Prescott over Wilson in this type of setting.

Prediction: Seahawks 20, Cowboys 17

                     

Chargers at Ravens

With Lamar Jackson under center, the Ravens have uncovered a winning formula built around ferocious defense, relentless rushing and clock control. It sounds simple, but it's proved effective. Just ask the Chargers, who had their four-game winning streak snapped by these Ravens at home in Week 16.

"We just couldn't sustain anything for the most part," Philip Rivers told reporters afterward. "Our only touchdown was on a short field, off a great play by our defense. Shoot, we just couldn't get going, so that's why I say credit to them."

While the Chargers have the on-paper weapons to give the Ravens problems, Baltimore's defense—first in yardage, second in points—is as stingy as they come. As long as Jackson protects the football, the Ravens should be able to dictate the style of play and set themselves up for success.

Prediction: Ravens 19, Chargers 17

                  

Eagles at Bears

Vegas is bullish on the Bears. While no other team is favored by more than three points (Baltimore), Chicago comes in as a healthy six-point favorite.

The stat sheet says the gap could be even wider. The Bears roll into this game with the NFL's best scoring defense (17.7 points per game) and ninth-best scoring offense (26.3). The Eagles rank just 12th on defense and 18th on offense. Philly's attack also can only hope Nick Foles is near 100 percent, after a rib injury forced him off the field in Week 17.

If anything gives you pause for Chicago, it's that Mitchell Trubisky will be making his postseason debut. But the Bears have enough weapons—on both sides of the ball—to overcome any playoff jitters their sophomore quarterback might experience.

Prediction: Bears 27, Eagles 13  

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