NFL Playoff 2019 : Super Bowl LIII is set for February 3, and it’s still almost anyone’s game to win. The playoff picture will be quite a bit clearer on Monday morning, when the final eight teams will be set.
CLICK HERE TO INSTANT ACCESS NOW
The New Orleans Saints, Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots spent Wild Card Weekend on byes.
Two more of the final eight have already punched their tickets—congratulations to the Indianapolis Colts and Dallas Cowboys—and two more will get in on Sunday. We’re here to examine the final two matchups of Wild Card Weekend and to look at what might lie ahead.
First, though, let’s dig into the schedule, highlighting latest odds and over/unders, relayed by OddsShark.
Sunday’s opening game features a pair of teams that faced off in Week 16. The Baltimore Ravens took that game over the Los Angles Chargers, and they did so by two scores on the road. The rematch is at M&T Bank Stadium, which may lead one the think this is a slam-dunk opportunity for the Ravens.
However, the Chargers have a legitimate chance of pulling off the upset.
There are two keys to victory for Los Angeles. The first is avoiding turnovers. Quarterback Philip Rivers tossed two interceptions in the first matchup, and a fumble returned for a touchdown sealed the game for the Ravens. Simple ball protection increases L.A.’s odds of winning.
The other thing the Chargers have to do is contain Baltimore’s rushing attack. Forcing quarterback Lamar Jackson to pass will give the Los Angeles defense opportunities to force mistakes. This is no easy task, but the Chargers have at least had one good look at how the Ravens offense operates.
NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell recently broke down what the Chargers can expect from the Ravens run game depending on the personnel. He said the following during an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show:
“The Ravens have some distinct profiles in their run game. They line up in the pistol. When [Gus] Edwards is in the game, they tend to run a lot of dive action because he’s a straight-line kind of linear runner. When Kenneth Dixon is in the game in the pistol, they tend to run more gap-scheme runs.“
The Chargers will have a better idea of how to defend Baltimore’s rushing attack this time around, and if they can contain it, they will start to swing momentum in their favor.
If, however, the Ravens can effectively control the game and the tempo on the ground, they will limit L.A.’s opportunities. The ensuing pressure to score on every possession could lead to some of those mistakes the Chargers need to avoid.
The Philadelphia Eagles and Chicago Bears matchup won’t feature the familiarity of the early game, but it’s going to be one heck of a battle.
On one hand, we have the defending Super Bowl champions once again riding the hot hand of backup quarterback Nick Foles. On the other, we have the upstart Bears, featuring the league’s No. 1 scoring defense (17.7 points per game allowed).
Despite having backup Foles under center instead of Carson Wentz, the Eagles have the more experienced quarterback. Foles has started 44 regular-season games in his NFL career, and he started—and won—all three last postseason.
Mitchell Trubisky has only started 26 games and has no playoff experience. However, the Bears aren’t too worried about it.
“We’ve seen Mitch show up in some big games this year,” tight end Trey Burton said, per Jeff Dickerson of ESPN.com. “He has some of the intangibles that not too many quarterbacks have in this league.”
Quarterback experience could play a big role in this game, especially if it goes down to the wire. However, the Bears have a right to feel good about where they stand with Trubisky. Considering how rarely opposing teams score points at Soldier Field, it’s unlikely the second-year signal-caller will have to do a whole lot.
Opposing teams averaged just 17.5 points per game in Chicago during the regular season—and just 16.25 points per game over the second half of the season.
Foles and the Eagles offense will face plenty of pressure, both on the scoreboard and from Bears pass-rushers like Khalil Mack.
The possibilities for the divisional round are pretty straightforward. With the sixth-seed Colts winning on Saturday, the winner of the Chargers-Ravens game will face the Patriots. Indianapolis will visit the Chiefs no matter what happens Sunday.
Things are a bit more open in the NFC because the fourth-seed Cowboys won on Saturday. If the Bears win, they will be the higher seed over Dallas and will face the Rams. If the Eagles win, the Cowboys will be the higher seed, and Philadelphia would go on to face the Saints.
Looking further ahead, we know that the Colts and the Eagles—should they win Sunday—will be on the road the rest of the way out. The only way Dallas gets to host another game is if the Cowboys and Eagles both win in the divisional round. The winner of the Chargers-Ravens game can host one if both they and the Colts win in the divisional round.