NFL wild card weekend part one open thread

Jazz: Welcome to the postseason, where the slates are wiped clean in our annual contest and Ed and I try to discern who will make it to the final dance. I’m kicking off this round, having somehow managed to win the regular season by topping off the final week with a perfect score of 7-0 for a final record of 74-45. The metal trophy cup Ed sent me looks marvelous on my Jets fan cabinet (and also holds a martini quite nicely). Neither of us will be distracted during the playoffs by feeling obligated to pick our personal favorite teams since neither the Jets nor the Steelers made the cut this year. This is no time to rest on my laurels, however, because there are some highly unpredictable games coming up.

Ed: The good news is that I only needed to pick two correct last week to avoid falling below .500 for the season — and I went 5-2. That gave me a final 2018 record of 63-56. Big kudos to Jazz for his excellent prediction season this year, but as he says, we’re back to zeroes as the day starts. We’ll see who gets the honors after the Super Bowl, but let me just remind everyone I actually sent Jazz two of those cups. I’m covered, man.

Jazz: The first of our two games today (4:35 pm, ESPN) sees the Colts traveling to play the Texans in Houston. It’s true that the Texans are division champions and they come into the game as a slight favorite, but you can’t write Indianapolis off. The Colts may have started off slowly and had to sneak in on a wildcard behind Houston, but they’ve won nine of their last ten games. They scored more than the Texans during the regular season and if their offensive line can keep Andrew Luck off of his butt for most of the game, I think they can pull this one out. I’ll start off my postseason effort by taking a mild upset on the road. Give me the Colts over Houston in a 27-24 thriller, possibly coming down to either a last minute field goal or even overtime.

Ed: I underestimated the Colts last week, but I’m not going to take them for granted this week. They will come in with some momentum, led by the almost-certain Comeback Player of the Year in Andrew Luck. The Colts only went 4-4 on the road this year, but one of those wins was in Texas four weeks ago. The Texans are usually tough at home, though, and so is their defense. However, Houston’s D is only 28th against the pass, and Luck is hot at the moment. I’ll take the Colts over Houston too, only with a lower-scoring 23-20 finish.

Jazz: The late game tonight (8:15 pm, FOX) is the Seahawks at the Cowboys. Once again the Texas team comes in as a slight favorite (by two points) and they have the home field advantage. In this case, the oddsmakers probably have it right. Seattle is good, but they’re not the same team we saw a few years ago when their defense was basically unstoppable. This year the Cowboys have the more impressive D. (Fun fact: Dallas has only given up three first-quarter scores all season long.) Dak Prescott and Russell Wilson are both fine quarterbacks, but that won’t do Seattle much good if Prescott spends most of the game on the bench waiting for his defense to get Dallas off the field. It’s probably going to be close, but I’ll take the Cowboys over the Seahawks in a defensive struggle 20-16.

Ed: This one’s tough to pick, because both teams have looked like two different squads at different times of the season. Both finished the season well, although Dallas barely won its final game against the sub-.500 Giants even with almost every starter in the lineup. The Cowboys haven’t been clicking as well as their five-game win streak that culminated in a 29-23 victory over the Cinderella Eagles in week 14. They got skunked by the Colts and then barely got by the Bucs and Giants. They may be out of gas, while Seattle and its coach Pete Carroll have lots of institutional knowledge about what it takes in the post-season. I’ll take the Seahawks to upset the Cowboys 27-23.

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