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The NFL’s second season is upon fans. 2019 is here, and with the new year comes the playoffs. One of the most exciting years in recent NFL history saw records shattered, unlikely heroes emerge, and big-time performances in key moments. Let’s hope that carries over.
The battle for a trip to Atlanta and a Super Bowl LIII title starts this weekend with the wild-card round. Don’t let the fact that these teams didn’t earn first-round byes fool you—each is dangerous enough to make a run. Four teams will press forward onto the divisional round of this year’s postseason while four others will start their offseasons.
Here are this weekend’s matchups:
—Colts @ Texans: Two division rivals with renewed hope after lackluster starts to the season.
—Seahawks @ Cowboys: A rematch of an early-season contest; each team is revitalized and has much more to play for this time around.
—Chargers @ Ravens: Los Angeles seeks retribution after a poor showing in a Week 16 loss to Baltimore, who continue to ride rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson.
—Eagles @ Bears: Philadelphia snuck its way into the playoffs and now has a chance to defend its Super Bowl title, but Chicago and its top-tier defense has been one of the league’s best teams down the stretch.
Guiding you through every game is Bing Predicts, which leverages search, social, and historical statistics to forecast the week’s winners and losers. Read on for wild-card predictions.
ALSO: See how Bing predicted the entire season here.
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Game time: Saturday, Jan. 5, 1:35 p.m. EST
Historical matchup: Indianapolis Colts lead series 26-8-0
It’s an AFC South rubber match this Saturday in Houston as these two split their regular season series one game apiece. While it looked like neither had a chance to play in January through the first quarter of the season, we enter the weekend knowing one of these rivals will advance at least to the divisional round.
After their dismal start to the season, the Indianapolis Colts and a resurgent Andrew Luck have found their way into the postseason for the first time since 2015. They used a 33-17 victory over the Tennessee Titans to finish the season on a 9-1 tear and wrap up the sixth and final wild-card spot in the AFC. Indy is only the third team to reach the playoffs after a 1-5 start to the season.
The Houston Texans didn’t earn their first victory of the season until Week 4 against these very Colts, but rattled off nine-consecutive victories from there in the midst of their AFC South title run, which was officially wrapped up after a 20-3 Week 17 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. They’re only the sixth team in the Super Bowl Era to reach the playoffs after starting 0-3.
Look forward to a great quarterback battle between Luck, the likely NFL Comeback Player of the Year, and Deshaun Watson who set an NFL record as the first player to throw for at least 4,000 yards and 25 touchdowns, as well as rush for at least 500 yards and five touchdowns.
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Bing Predicts Winner: Houston Texans (51% chance)
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Game time: Saturday, Jan. 5, 8:15 p.m. EST
Historical matchup: Dallas Cowboys lead series 10-9-0
The Seattle Seahawks emerged as the 24-13 victors back in Week 3 over the Dallas Cowboys, which saved them from an 0-3 start and a large uphill climb to reach the playoffs. Both of these squads missed out on extra football last season, but things shook out better in 2018 with the Cowboys earning an NFC East championship and the Seahawks the top wild-card spot.
Dallas was already locked into their playoff seeding entering last Sunday’s battle with the New York Giants, but elected to play most of their starters in a come-from-behind victory that they hope will provide some momentum heading into the postseason. Halfway through the season with a 3-5 record and head coach Jason Garrett’s job in jeopardy, a trade for wide receiver Amari Cooper completely turned the Cowboy’s season around. In nine games with Dallas, Cooper is averaging nearly six catches per game and over 80 yards receiving per game, which is consistency they were lacking.
Seattle also had a playoff spot wrapped up entering their matchup with the Arizona Cardinals, but head coach Pete Carroll hoped to grab some momentum to carry into January as well. While the Seahawks eked out a 27-24 victory, it was anything but pretty. Quarterback Russell Wilson was sacked six times, and the Seahawks had two punts blocked in the game.
These two have some unique playoffs history: When they last met in the postseason in 2006, then-quarterback Tony Romo was also the holder for field goals and infamously botched what would have been a go-ahead kick, leading to a 21-20 Seahawks victory.
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Bing Predicts Winner: Seattle Seahawks (53% chance)
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Game time: Sunday, Jan. 6, 1:05 p.m. EST
Historical matchup: Baltimore Ravens lead series 7-5-0
Despite finishing tied for the best record in the AFC, the Los Angeles Chargers kick off their first playoff appearance since 2013 with a road game on wild-card weekend. The Kansas City Chiefs, due to a better division record, won the tiebreaker in the AFC West and wrapped up home field throughout the postseason.
Although in a funk the last few weeks, quarterback Philip Rivers is having one of the best seasons of his illustrious career, throwing for 32 touchdowns and amassing a 105.5 passer rating. He’ll take the Chargers and their high-powered and balanced offense into Baltimore, but it’s their defense that will need to find an answer for rookie sensation Lamar Jackson.
The Ravens were 4-5 when Jackson took over for Joe Flacco when the veteran went down with an injury. Baltimore, finding success with Jackson’s extra mobility, kept Flacco on the bench despite his full recovery from the hip injury he suffered. Jackson is 6-1 as a starter and helped the Ravens achieve their first AFC North title since 2012.
These teams met Week 16; Baltimore bested L.A. 22-10 in an upset. Rivers will need to be better than his 181-yard, two-interception performance in the loss, which is no easy task against the league-leading defense in yards allowed per game.
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Bing Predicts Winner: Baltimore Ravens (51% chance)
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Game time: Sunday, Jan. 6, 4:40 p.m. EST
Historical matchup: Chicago Bears lead series 29-14-1
It wasn’t easy, but the Philadelphia Eagles will look to defend their Super Bowl title after sneaking into the postseason Week 17. It took a 24-0 victory over the Washington Redskins, and a 24-10 Chicago Bears’ victory over the Minnesota Vikings, but the Eagles are in and riding a three-game winning streak. Backup quarterback Nick Foles came to the rescue last season after Carson Wentz went down with a torn ACL and ended up with Super Bowl MVP honors. He’ll need to conjure some of that same magic this postseason as Wentz is again injured. Is Foles the recipe for the Philly offense, which now seems to be clicking better than it has all season?
Ironically for the Eagles, they’ll now need to defeat the team they desperately needed to win last week. The Bears are arguably the hottest team in the NFL, having won nine of their last 10 games behind a dangerous and opportunistic defensive unit leading the league in takeaways. Matt Nagy looks like he’ll be crowned the NFL Coach of the Year in his first season with the Bears. The Bears are in the playoffs for the first time since the 2010 season.
Foles left Sunday’s game with a chest injury after the Eagles had the game in hand, but is expected to play this week. These two teams met early in 2017: Philadelphia rolled Chicago 31-3, but the Bears are highly improved this season. They’ll be the favorites at home.
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Bing Predicts Winner: Chicago Bears (69% chance)
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