Black Quarterback: 2019 NFL Wild Card Preview
By Brandon Simmons
Colts vs. Texans
For the 3rd time this season the Indianapolis Colts and the Houston Texans will face off and break the tie in their season series. These two teams have been in some close battles this year, including the Texans’ first win of the year, a 37-34 victory on the road at Indianapolis, which also sparked their 9 game winning streak that propelled to a division title. For the Colts, it was the 2nd loss of a 4 game losing streak, but things changed quickly for them. At the end of the streak, they went on a 9-1 stretch, including a regular season finale beatdown of the Tennessee Titans to secure the 6th seed of the playoffs.
A lot of people might not realize this, but this game might feature the best quarterback matchup of the weekend. Texans QB Deshaun Watson and Colts QB Andrew Luck are different in styles. Watson is more of the dual threat prototype, who can beat you with his arm and legs. Luck is a little bit more on the prototypical pocket passer side, but he can move around a little bit as well. Another fascinating thing about these signal callers, is the access they have to two of the league’s best wide receivers. Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton are going to be looking to light up their opponents’ secondary. Hopkins has the most yardage recorded against Indy by a wide receiver all year (10 catches, 169 yards) while Hilton has blown up the Texans defensive backs for nearly 200 yards in the last matchup.
What’s really has been is the defenses of these 2 teams. The Colts have been playing solid defense lately. They’ve held an opponent to under 200 yards passing 3 of the last 5 games. The Texans defense has been shutting down the run basically all season, but that might not matter since the Colts’ strength does not lie in their running game. Indy is a top 10 passing team, obviously with Luck at the Helm, but it’s an area the Texans defense struggles with as they ranked 28th in the league. However, what balances out that stat, is the fact they can get after the quarterback and create turnovers.
This will be a close game but the Texans will edge it out in the end. They have a front 7 that includes defensive end J.J. Watt and linebacker Jadeveon Clowney, who can get to the QB and cause disruption along the offensive line and in the backfield. The Colts are coming off a blowout of the Tennessee Titans, but the Titans were missing a few starters, including defensive lineman Jurrell Casey. Watson is a very good young quarterback and will have an amazing game, but the Houston defense will be hungry for revenge against the Colts after their last loss at home. Look for the Texans to avenge that regular season loss and win this game.
Seahawks vs. Cowboys
We’re not even 5 minutes into the postseason and people are already calling for an upset. The Dallas Cowboys will be hosting the Seattle Seahawks this Saturday and many believe that the road team has the upper hand. Earlier this year, the Seahawks beat the Cowboys 24-13 in Seattle behind QB Russell Wilson’s 192 yards passing and 2 touchdowns and running back Chris Carson’s 102 yards rushing. The Seattle defense also added in 5 sacks to stifle an already struggling Cowboys offense. Dallas appeared to be dominated in that game despite the 127 yards rushing from their running back phenom, Ezekiel Elliot. However, each team went into their own direction after that faithful and now meet on Dallas’ home artificial turf.
The main matchup to watch out for will be the Cowboys defense against Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and his offense. The Cowboys defense has been good all year, keeping the team in games when the offense can not get it together. They are currently 6th in scoring defense and only allowed over opponent to reach over 25 points twice. This team plays the run well, holding opponents to an overall 94.6 yards per game, which is 5th in the league. You can attribute that to linebackers Jalen Smith and Layton Vanderbasch; the latter is a potential defensive rookie of the year who has filled on for the oft-injured Sean Lee. But they will have their hands full with Seahawks running back Chris Carson, who Is the leading rusher of this dangerous Seattle backfield, that’s averaging a league best 160 yards per game. Quarterback Russell Wilson will also give you yards on the ground from time to time, but when he is on the move outside of the pocket he will hurt you with his arm. The advantage that falls into the Cowboys favor that, is sometimes his moving around the pocket can lead to sacks. Wilson has been sacked in every game this year for a career high 51 on the season.
The one thing that will lift the Seahawks over the Cowboys is the veteran presence at quarterback. Russell Wilson has quietly had one of his best season with 35 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. He can and will show up for the big game, just like he did against all the playoff teams on his schedule (Bears, Cowboys, Rams, Chargers and Chiefs) in which he threw for 15 touchdowns and 2 picks. The Seahawks will have to tame a Cowboys offense that has Ezekiel Elliot t running back and now Amari Cooper at wide receiver. However, this was the same Elliot who was the game’s leading rusher in the last matchup as well as the same offense that got shut out by the Indianapolis Colts not too long ago. Expect Seattle to pull off the win in Dallas.
Chargers vs. Ravens
On paper, the Baltimore Ravens taking on the Los Angeles Chargers looks like an easy pick, until you remember the Ravens went into L.A. and beat the Chargers on their home field. What’s even more astonishing, is that Baltimore did this while in the transition phrase of having a new franchise quarterback. Ravens rookie QB Lamar Jackson after QB Joe Flacco went down with a hip injury. Even though Flacco was cleared to play, Jackson was kept as the starter, going 5-1 in the process. It’s rare that a rookie goes 5-1 in his first handful of starts but it’s also helpful that he is aided by a superb defense, solid running game and tight ends who can catch the ball. But he is competing against a veteran QB in the Chargers’ Philip Rivers and veterans is where they make their legacy. The Chargers have been somewhat of a surprise, going 11-5 and within a game of challenging the Kansas City Chiefs for the division and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. In other words, they are not going down without a fight.
The key to who wins this matchup will be the defenses of these teams. In the last game, the Ravens held the gunslinging Rivers to only 181 yards, while his Baltimore counterpart had a season high 204 yards passing with just 39 yards rushing, which is aligned more with his game. An important component for these defenses might be who can defend the run. The Ravens are 4th in the league against the run while the Chargers are 9th. However, the Ravens also excel at defending the pass as they have demonstrated against the Chargers a few weeks ago as well as all season, ranking 5th in that department while the Chargers also sit at 9 for that area.
So it’s safe to say that the Ravens will be snatching this win in a slight upset. Baltimore will be at home and have the crowd on their side throughout the game and that noise should make it hard for Rivers to get his snap counts off. That will make it easier for that Ravens defense to do their job and shake up that Chargers offensive line to get into the backfield. And yes, the Chargers do have a solid defense, with pass rushers such as Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram who can get after the QB with ease, but if the passing game fails for Baltimore, their 2nd ranked rushing attack will swoop right in and carry them to victory.
Eagles vs. Bears
This might be the only game on this weekend’s schedule that is not a rematch from the past regular season but it should make things more fun. The Chicago Bears begin their playoff run by hosting the Philadelphia Eagles, who have been on a late season, magical ride behind QB Nick Foles. In a situation very similar to last year, QB Carson Wentz gets hurt, then Foles steps in and wins a couple of games at the end of they. The only difference is those wins were needed to get the Eagles into the playoffs But before he can repeat that happy ending, he has to face a Bears defense led by linebacker Khalil Mack, who will have no problem bringing Foles to reality. The Bears have been on their own magic ride, floating to a 12-4 record and AFC North title; the same division that hosts trigger happy quarterbacks Matt Stafford, Kirk Cousins and Aaron Rodgers. However, because of the staunch defense of Chicago, and offensive mind of head coach Matt Nagy, Bears QB Mitch Trubisky has been the shining star of this group this season and might have a chance to be even brighter against this Eagles defense.
It was a great ride for the Eagles to enjoy and get their hopes up, but the Bears are taking this game. You can start with their defense being the obvious reason. With Mack added to the outside, that pass rush has become serious with 50 sacks this year, which is 3rd in the league. With safety Eddi Jackson roaming around the defensive backfield, it will be easy to get Foles to make an error and turn the ball over. The offense will also put the Bears over the top with how they operate. Nagy is running an offense that fits Trubisky’s strengths this year and it will show in the playoffs, with the help of his two playmakers, running backs Jalen Howard and Tarik Cohen. The Eagles might hang around for a while in this one but the Bears will leave that field with the win.
Powered by Facebook Comments