The 2018-2019 NFL playoffs are set, and we’ve got some new faces this season—only 5 of the 12 postseason teams are repeats from last year, which means there are plenty of hungry newcomers ready to make their mark. From the Wildcard round to the Super Bowl, here are my playoff picks.
(6) Colts at (3) Texans: Saturday, January 5th, 4:35 E.T.
An interdivisional matchup to kick of the postseason means it’s going to be a crazy January. Both of these teams are on an absolute tear right now—the Colts have won nine of the last ten, including a win-and-get-in game against the Titans in week 17. After an 0-3 start, the Texans have ripped off 11 of their last 13. The away team has won both matchups this season—not this time. Deshaun Watson leads a game-winning drive to send the Texans to Foxborough.
(5) Seahawks at (4) Cowboys: Saturday, January 5th, 8:15 E.T.
Seattle won the week-three matchup against the Cowboys, and they did it by forcing Dak Prescott into one of his worst games of the season—it won’t be as easy this time around. Save the game against the Colts, Prescott has played well in the second half of the season, and he has the NFL’s leading rusher behind him to lean on. But I’m taking the Seahawks because I believe in Russell Wilson—he has enough playoff experience to carry Seattle to the Divisional round.
(5) Chargers at (4) Ravens: Sunday, January 6th, 1:05 E.T.
Bold Prediction: The winner of this game will go into Kansas City and beat the Chiefs to advance to the AFC Championship. It doesn’t matter which team it is, they are both equipped to do so.
The Ravens completely shut down the Chargers in Los Angeles in week 16, but that only serves as motivation for Rivers and Co. Baltimore has the better defense, but the playoffs are a different animal for a rookie quarterback—the Chargers have a better team and will squeak by, but it will be close—very close.
(6) Eagles at (3) Bears: Sunday, January 6th, 4:40 E.T.
If the Bears lose to the Eagles, they may regret showing no mercy against the Vikings in week 17 (and I may smile a little as a Packer fan because cheering against division rivals is all I have left now). Philly backed into the playoffs after they looked dead in the water—they were 6-7, Wentz was out, and they had to win out with the Rams and Texans on the schedule.
The takeaway? Never doubt ol’ St. Nick Foles—the man thrives in the winter. I don’t think it will be enough to overcome the Bears defense in Chicago, but it’s been quite a ride for Eagles fans.
(5) Chargers at (1) Chiefs: Saturday, January 12th, 4:35 E.T.
Who wouldn’t want to see this matchup for a third time? The second time these two met, we had the privilege of watching one of the best games of the year. The Chiefs are the number one seed for the third time in their franchise, but the previous two attempts resulted in losses—this time around will heed the same result. There are few teams that can hang with the high-powered Kansas City offense, but the Chargers are one of those teams—they have the ability to score, while also possessing a defense capable of slowing down Mahomes. LA in another close one.
(3) Bears at (2) Rams: Saturday, January 12th, 8:15 E.T.
There’s domination, and then there is what the Bears did to the Rams in the regular season—the Monsters of the Midway forced four Goff interceptions and held Gurley to a mere 28 yards rushing. A team that averaged 33 PPG on the season managed six against the Bears. Now, the game is in the warmer(er) LA weather, which bodes well for the Rams, but the stadium will be filled with Chicago faithful. Bears advance to their first NFC Championship since 2010.
(3) Texans at (2) Patriots: Sunday, January 13th, 1:05 E.T.
People are writing off the Patriots as if they haven’t casually claimed a first-round bye for the eighth straight year. They’re still a contender in the AFC as long as Brady and Belichick are running the show, but it won’t be easy against a hungry Texans squad—they surely remember the beating they suffered two years ago at the hands of the Patriots in the divisional round, but Deshaun Watson is no Brock Osweiler. They’ll hang in there for a majority of the game, but the Patriots reach their 8th straight AFC Championship.
(5) Seahawks at (1) Saints: Sunday, January 13th, 4:40 E.T.
No Marshawn Lynch in this one, but there will still be plenty of opportunities for big plays in this one. The Saints have somewhat stumbled into the playoffs (as much as a 13-3 team can stumble), but they have been lackadaisical at times, especially on the road.
Good thing it’s home sweet home throughout January.
Seattle is good enough to stick with New Orleans, and Russell Wilson can go toe-to-toe with Drew Brees, but the Saints are just the better team, and it’ll show here.
(3) Bears at (1) Saints: Sunday, January 20th, 2:05 E.T.
High-level offense vs. world-class defense? It’s a match made in heaven.
Compared to the icy conditions of Soldier Field, the Superdome is paradise for the league’s best defense. The problem is, the Bears offense is not equipped to keep up with a Saints team that can play on both sides of the ball, especially on their home turf. The most important player on the field is Mitch Trubisky and whether or not he can play at an MVP level—he plays well in this game, but in the end it’s not enough.
(5) Chargers at (2) Patriots: Sunday, January 20th, 5:40 E.T.
The Chargers have waited 11 years to get back to the AFC Championship, and they are ready to take revenge on the team that beat them in the 2007 title game. Los Angeles is finally healthy, getting Melvin Gordon and Hunter Henry (who tore his ACL back in May) just in time for the postseason. The Chargers are balanced enough to beat New England, and it shows in this one.
(1) Saints vs (5) Chargers: Sunday, February 3rd, 2019
This veteran quarterback matchup lets the league know that the old-timers are not quite ready to pass the reigns to the young guns. If the Saints win, it would mark the second straight season that the NFC’s number one seed won the Super Bowl, and Brees would join Tom Brady and Peyton Manning as the oldest quarterbacks to win a Super Bowl. If the Chargers are victorious, it would be the franchise’s first Super Bowl, and would solidify Rivers’ Hall of Fame case. This is a pick’em game, I’ll take the Saints for their second title.