2018 NFL Wild Card Playoffs Preview
By Julie Voigt and Russell S. Baxter (VIBE)
Special to Pro Football Guru
The chase for the Lombardi Trophy begins this weekend with the first of the 11 postseason games that will decide the champion of the 2018 NFL season. Both Super Bowl LII participants, the champion Philadelphia Eagles and the runner-up New England Patriots, are among the 12 playoff participants. The Kansas City Chiefs, New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams all won division titles a year ago and did the same in ‘18.
But these are the only five clubs to return to the postseason from the field of 12 a year ago. The Chicago Bears are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2010. The Los Angeles Chargers return to the postseason for the first time since 2013.
So here is PFG Vibe’s somewhat-unique look at the AFC-NFC Wild Card Playoffs. Julie Voigt (VI) and Russell S. Baxter (BE) offer their quick analysis on each contest (All times ET).
Saturday, January 5
Indianapolis Colts (10-6) at Houston Texans (11-5), 4:35
VI: Ring the bell! It’s Round 3. Is there a Hilton in Houston? I’m not sure but the Texans should be on the lookout for a Luck-to-T.Y. connection or two. Can the AFC South champions deal with the Colts’ offensive line, especially if center Ryan Kelly is cleared to play? The Indianapolis defense will have to deal with quarterback Deshaun Watson and the club’s speedy running game.
BE: Will things be different this time for Andrew Luck in the playoffs? True, the club reached the post season with him at the helm three straight years from 2012-14. And while there have been some good moments, his postseason numbers read as such: 9 TD passes, 1 fumble return for a touchdown and 13 turnovers (12 interceptions, 1 lost fumble) in six career playoff games.
Seattle Seahawks (10-6) at Dallas Cowboys (10-6), 8:15 pm
VI: The Cowboys have lost just one home game all season, while the Seahawks are looking for the second win of the season over Jason Garrett’s club. Seattle led the NFL in rushing, a big reason they were able to bounce back from a 0-2 start. Does Dallas have a 12th man at AT&T Stadium? The extra support may be needed this week.
BE: It’s the third playoff appearance for the Cowboys in the last five years. But Rod Marinelli’s defense will have to deal with the number-one rushing attack in the league in 2018. Russell Wilson and the Seahawks are making their sixth playoff appearance in seven years and during this stretch, Pete Carroll’s team has won at least one postseason game each time around.
Sunday, January 6
L.A. Chargers (12-4) at Baltimore Ravens (10-6), 1:05 pm
VI: The Chargers’ offense has looked ordinary the last two weeks in splitting with the Ravens and Broncos. Los Angeles cannot allow Baltimore to dominate time of possession. Regardless, these Ravens are looking to advance to the AFC Divisional Playoffs for the seventh time in 11 years under head coach John Harbaugh. Could Philip Rivers’ Super Bowl plans be nevermore?
BE: During the team’s 6-1 finish, the Ravens totaled an astounding 1,607 yards rushing. But their lowest total over that stretch came in the Week 16 win over the Chargers, who limited Lamar Jackson and company to “only” 159 yards on the ground. Don’t underestimate Gus Bradley’s defense.
Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) at Chicago Bears (12-4), 4:40 pm
VI: The newest “Monsters of the Midway” host the reigning Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles. The addition of Khalil Mack this year and an improved Chicago team led by head coach Matt Nagy could be dangerous. Are these Bears ready to shuffle on up to Club Dub and onto the Super Bowl? Or will the up-and-down Eagles fly high in the playoffs?
BE: It shapes up as an intriguing chess match between head coaches Doug Pederson and Matt Nagy, who spent time together with both the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs. And it’s hard to believe there will be that many surprises in either’s play-calling. A year ago, the Birds used the number-one run defense in the league to help their championship cause. Can Nagy’s team do the same this postseason?
Julie Voigt (JulieNoted_PFG) and Russell S. Baxter (@BaxFootballGuru) are the co-founders of @pfgVIBE. Julie is also the Colts’ reporter for OurTurf Football while Russell writes for FanSided and NFL Spin Zone.