The NFL playoffs are upon us as 12 teams embark on the annual quest for the Lombardi Trophy and it begins this weekend with four very intriguing wild-card matchups. Here are three bold (dare I say outregous?) predictions for this weekend.
Outrageous Predictions for NFL Wild Card Weekend
Philadelphia goes into Solider Field and outclasses Chicago
Bold enough for you? It's possible and there is a bevy of reasons why it's not as far-fetched as it might seem. Mitchell Trubisky is the quarterback that I have the least confidence in out of the 12 in the playoffs. Nick Foles on the other hand, I am very confident in. Remember, Foles outclassed Tom Brady and Bill Belichick on sports’ biggest stage last February. Going into Chicago will not overwhelm Foles.
The Eagles also have an offensive line that can matchup with the Bears’ front seven and their pass rush. The defending Super Bowl champions have a head coach who is a bright play-caller and also not afraid to gamble. If you think Doug Pederson is going into the weekend as the biggest underdog of the four wild-card games and will try and win by field position, working the clock and managing things, then you are clueless about Pederson. He will shoot his shot and go down guns-a-blazing.
The Eagles might be depleted in the defensive backfield, but coordinator Jim Schwartz is good enough to draw up a game plan to frustrate Trubisky, who is just in his second year as a starter in the NFL and will be making his postseason debut. The Eagles are very familiar with former teammate Trey Burton so it’s not like the Bears will be able to catch them off guard with their version of the “Philly Special.” No, the lone fear for Philadelphia’s defense is versatile running back Tarik Cohen. The Bears are a very talented team, but they are a year away and ahead of schedule. Don't be surprised if the champ’s pedigree, experience and talent allow the Eagles to pull away and win this game a touchdown or more. Philadelphia (+6) is very much a live underdog.
Dallas will beat Seattle on Saturday and it won’t be because of Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliot or Amari Cooper
The Cowboys will win this game because of their brilliant, young and dynamic duo at linebacker. Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith are absolute studs and the prototypes for the modern-day linebacker. The Seahawks boast the NFL's No. 1 rushing attack at 160 yards per game. Dallas counters with the fifth-best run-stuffing unit at 94.6 rushing yards per game allowed.
Russell Wilson is an MVP-caliber, elite QB, but this rendition of Pete Carroll's Seahawks has returned to double-digit wins thanks in part to a dominant ground game that doesn’t put everything on the shoulders of their franchise signal-caller. Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli and his unit will be the reason why Dallas advances to the Divisional Round, where they’ll get another shot at New Orleans.
The Colts will beat the Texans because of the guys in front of Andrew Luck
Indianapolis and Houston kick off Wild Card Weekend in a matchup of divisional rivals. All of America will be enamored with Andrew Luck, Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins, T.Y. Hilton, J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney, and rightfully so. However, the most important unit and the collection of talent that is playing better than almost anyone else right now is the Colts’ offensive line. Without Indianapolis finally addressing the offensive line, investing in the protection of their quarterback and committing to rebuilding this franchise from the inside out, Andrew Luck isn't a near-lock to win Comeback Player of the Year honors nor is he among the top contenders for MVP.
The Colts have won nine of their last 10 games and enter the playoffs as arguably the hottest team in the field. A big reason for this is their offensive line, which is made up of (from left to right) Anthony Castonzo, Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly, Mark Glowinski and Braden Smith. These five have built a wall around Luck and have kept him upright (18 sacks allowed, fewest in the NFL) all season long. As a result, Luck has had plenty of time to stay in the pocket and find T.Y.. Hilton, Eric Ebron and others downfield. There’s a reason he’s second in the league in touchdown passes (39) and fifth in yards (4.593). Houston is the home team but don’t be surprised if the Colts pull off the upset and make a deep run because of the least heralded players in football.
— Written by Nick Kayal, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network as a college football and NFL writer. Nick is a Morning Show Host in Nashville on 102.5 The Game. Follow him on Twitter @NickKayal.