By: Joe Cardoso
Now that we are done stuffing our faces with Turkey, ham and every sweet treat under the sun the NFL Playoffs are ready to begin. Wildcard weekend is fun for a many of reasons it’s a fresh start for all the teams, it can lead to a Super Bowl, and the drama of win or go home. Today I take a look at the NFC match-ups and tomorrow the AFC we have what some are calling the game of the year and a matchup between two teams that are inconsistent. If the crazy regular season was a peek into what to expect in the playoffs then prepare to be amazed.
Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) Vs Chicago Bears (12-4) 4:40 pm Sunday
This will be an old-fashioned big boy pad only type of game. Those who think defense is dead and it’s all about the spread and the rules have ruined the game haven’t seen this Bears defense this year. In a scene from Groundhog day, Nick Foles is back under center for the defending champs and they are starting to hit their stride on offense.
Eagles: It all starts with Foles and his ability to make the right play and also push the ball downfield early and often. He uplifts this team and is 4-1 as a starter this season. All of Philadelphia is praying that his ribs are healed enough to ball out, and a steady running game would be a big help. Much like the 49ers, Redskins and others the Eagles have been crushed with injuries and this secondary has to wear name tags in practice and interview rooms but they made it to the dance and that’s all that matters. THIS is why you have a Michael Bennett is for games like this along with Fletcher Cox to create havoc for the Bears who bring in an unproven playoff quarterback. If they can put enough points on the board the pressure on the backline will be a nonfactor for this game.
Player(s)To Watch: Two guys who can help bring home an Eagles W are Darren Sproles who looks like he did in his Chargers days and is just what the doctor ordered for a squad lacking a run threat. Lance Johnson starting left tackle and the man whose job is to slow down Khalil Mack we all know you can’t stop him. Johnson should come into this game feeling good after the no help 4 quarter battle he had with J.J. Watt. Giving Foles time to find people and bring some holes for the backs.
Bears: The storybook season can’t end in the Wildcard round can it? The new monsters of the midway come in after defeating the Vikings and crushing their playoff dreams. I became a real believer in this team after they beat the Rams and now they face another test in the form of the NFL Playoffs. The defense will keep them in every game and it’s up to the offense to make some plays and put a few points on the board. Mitchell Trubisky welcome to the big time kid and it’s on you to be smart with the ball and not to try and do it all on his own. He should be healthy and up to the challenge ahead. On defense, we all know Khalil Mack is the pacesetter for a side full of playmakers as I like to say the Bears defense is full of big, nasty men who want to hurt you. Matt Nagy has been able to hit all the right buttons Saturday he goes from a flip phone to a smartphone.
Player(s) To Watch: Mitchell Trubisky, all eyes will be on the 2nd year QB making his first postseason start and being at home is a huge boost or at least it should be. He has been a big reason for the team’s turnaround and Mitch has made leaps in year 2. He must stay within himself and let the plays come to him you don’t want to have silly turnovers due to forcing something that’s not there. Tarik Cohen is 5’8 and clone of Darren Sproles he makes huge plays and has the speed the Bears haven’t had since Willie Gault suited up.
Prediction: I’m taking the Bears at home to send the defending champs home 27-24
Dallas Cowboys (10-6) Vs Seattle Seahawks (10-6) 8:15 pm Saturday
Which version of these two teams will show up? Do the Seahawks even know how good they really are? Everyone has had something to say about Dak Prescott can he shut the haters up?
Cowboys: America’s team is back in the postseason and fresh off an NFC East title. The formula for them to win seems so simple but they struggle sometimes to remember that, feed Zeke early and often wear out the opposing defense and run out the clock. Sprinkle in the new found number 1 wideout Amari Cooper and let this young defense attack until the final whistle. Rookie Leighton Vander Esch is a beast and will have his hands full against Russell Wilson and the ground game Seattle relies on.
Player(s) to watch: Dak Prescott hands down. He will have to make plays down the field and not turn the ball over if last week was a glimpse of what he can become Cowboys fans should be licking their lips. The days of having years to improve at QB in the NFL are all but over so it’s showtime young man. Show us what you got!
Seahawks: How did we get here? The legion of boom is no more, Pete Carroll was on the way out, who was the running back? Well, 10 wins later the gang from Seattle is preparing for a playoff game and looking like a team no one wants to play. Not being at home is a bit of a downer but they have a defense and that travels well even in Dallas, my biggest question has been and will always be the O-Line. They are banged up a bit and for a unit that isn’t that great to start with this is a red flag. Russell Wilson will have to dig in the bag for a win and having all his wideouts is a nice step towards pulling it off.
Player(s) To Watch: Russell Wilson it is on YOU Mr. Wilson you are an elite QB and have been in this arena a lot more than Dak. A few big plays out of the pocket to Doug Baldwin or Lockett will soften up the defense and create running opportunities.
Prediction: Taking the road team here. I think Russell Wilson and company pull this one off and win 21-17. I just can’t trust the Cowboys to do the right thing and trust the run game to win it. I also like the Seahawks ability to make in-game adjustments and take advantage of plays.
That’s it for the NFC WIldcard matchup’s who are your picks? Follow us for all the NFL you could want @NutsAndBoltsSP or follow me @JoeCardoso301