The NFL playoffs are now set, and the postseason begins this weekend with the wild-card round. In the AFC, the Kansas City Chiefs (12-4) and New England Patriots (12-4) each earned first-round byes, while in the NFC the New Orleans Saints (13-3) and Los Angeles Rams (13-3) will be idle as they await their divisional opponents.
Here is a look at the four games on tap this weekend.
Indianapolis Colts (10-6) at Houston Texans (11-5). Saturday, 4:35 p.m. EST, ESPN/ABC/ESPN app.
The Colts are the sixth seed in the AFC and travel to face the third-seeded Texans, who won the AFC South by one game over Indianapolis. The division rivals have met twice this season, with the Texans winning 37-34 in overtime on Sept. 30 at Indianapolis and the Colts prevailing 24-21 on Dec. 9 in Houston. The Texans opened their season 0-3 before beating the Colts and went 9-3 the rest of the way. Houston is 6-2 at home this season, but the Colts, thanks to quarterback Andrew Luck’s re-emergence as an offensive force, have won their last four games starting with their win against Houston. Luck has thrown for 863 yards and six touchdowns in the Colts’ games against the Texans. This is the Colts’ first trip to the playoffs since the 2014 season, when they reached the conference finals before losing to the New England Patriots. The Texans are returning to the postseason for the first time since 2016, when they won their second straight division title.
Los Angeles Chargers (12-4) at Baltimore Ravens (10-6). Sunday, 1:05 p.m. EST, CBS.
The Ravens hung on to edge the Cleveland Browns 26-24 on Sunday to clinch the AFC North title, earn a No. 4 seed in the playoffs and the right to host the fifth-seeded Chargers. It will be the Ravens’ first postseason appearance since the 2014 season. Despite a rookie quarterback in Lamar Jackson, the Ravens have succeeded because of their defense. Baltimore has allowed just 287 points this season, the second-lowest number in the NFL behind the Chicago Bears (283). While the Ravens were 6-2 at home this season, the Chargers were 7-1 on the road and won at Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Seattle. Their lone road loss came Sept. 23 against the crosstown Rams. This is the Chargers’ first playoff appearance since the 2013 season and the first under second-year coach Anthony Lynn. Ravens coach John Harbaugh is 5-0 in wild-card weekend games with the Ravens.
Seattle (10-6) at Dallas (10-6), Saturday, 8:15 p.m. EST, Fox.
With a 4-4 record halfway through the season, the Cowboys appeared to be treading water. But Dallas caught fire in the second half, going 6-2 with victories against the Saints, Giants, Buccaneers and Falcons, plus two wins against the Eagles, the defending Super Bowl champions and the Cowboys’ top rival in the NFC East. Sunday’s 36-35 victory on the road against the New York Giants clinched the division title for Dallas and put the fourth-seeded Cowboys into the playoffs for the first time since the 2016 season. Coach Jason Garrett, whose job security seems to be an issue annually in Dallas, is 1-2 in the postseason -- a statistic that rankles owner Jerry Jones. Returning home for the playoffs, the Cowboys are 7-1 this season. They face a Seattle squad that had just 11 turnovers this season -- one shy of the NFL record for the fewest over a full season. The fifth-seeded Seahawks remained aggressive on defense, forcing 26 turnovers and had 27 sacks on third down. After missing the playoffs in 2017, Seattle returns to the postseason for the seventh time in coach Pete Carroll’s nine seasons with the team.
Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) at Chicago Bears (12-4), Sunday, 4:40 p.m. EST, NBC.
The third-seeded Bears helped the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles reach the playoffs by defeating Minnesota 24-10 Sunday, while Philadelphia slid into the No. 6 slot with a 24-0 victory against the Washington Redskins. The Eagles now have the dubious task of facing a Bears defense that gave up the fewest points in the NFL this season and has drawn comparisons to the 1985 Bears’ “46 Defense” that lost just once en route to victory in Super Bowl XX. Quarterback Nick Foles, who was a postseason magician last season, stepped in again this year by leading the Eagles to three consecutive victories against the Rams, Texans and Redskins. Against Washington, Foles tied an NFL record by completing 25 consecutive passes. However, he injured his ribs during the second half and will have to regain his mobility to avoid Chicago’s ferocious rush. For the Eagles’ offense to be effective, tight end Zach Ertz must be a target. He made 116 catches during the regular season, including seven touchdowns inside the red zone.
Information from NFL.com, Pro-Football Reference.com and wire services were used in compiling this report.
Thank you for reading the Springfield News-Sun and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to exclusive deals and newsletters.
Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Springfield News-Sun. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.