Published: Jan. 4, 2019 at 11:43 a.m.
Updated: Jan. 4, 2019 at 03:06 p.m.

Wild Card Weekend to Super Bowl LIII? Ravens, Colts have the best chance

Print

The NFL playoffs kick off this weekend with a Wild Card Round that features these four matchups: Colts at Texans, Seahawks at Cowboys, Chargers at Ravens and Eagles at Bears. Even if a team advances this weekend, there are four others with a first-round bye (Kansas City, New England, New Orleans and the Los Angeles Rams) that will be tough to get past on the way to Super Bowl LIII in February.

Of the eight teams playing on Wild Card Weekend, which has the best chance of making an appearance in Atlanta?

Chicago Bears boast momentum, stout D and trickery
At this time of year, it's about who is playing the best right now, and the Chicago Bears are coming in with a ton of momentum after knocking off a division rival in Week 17. They have a great defense, which ranks first in scoring, turnovers and big plays, and a solid run game. Plus, Matt Nagy's creative offense will keep defenses off-balance like it has all season long. With all of these factors, the Bears won't have to heavily rely on their young passer, Mitch Trubisky. That will play in their favor.
Indianapolis Colts riding hot streak into Wild Card Weekend
The Colts have been the hottest team in the AFC over the last three months. They've won nine of 10 games since opening the season with a 1-5 record. Quarterback Andrew Luck has found his groove again and his supporting cast has grown up in a hurry. The Colts also have the look of a team that could win a postseason game in Kansas City, which would be their next destination if they beat the Texans on Saturday. Indianapolis can run, pass and defend. That balance will make them especially dangerous in this postseason.
Ravens' defense is too tough to overcome -- even for the best offenses
The Ravens boast a defense that ranks in the top five in multiple categories -- scoring, third down and big plays, to name a few. No matter who the Ravens play, the defense -- and the league's No. 2 rushing offense -- will keep opposing quarterbacks on the sideline. That's huge considering Philip Rivers is first on the docket and would be followed by Tom Brady or Patrick Mahomes.
Pete Carroll's Seahawks winning the turnover battle
Yes, they have the top rushing offense and have won six of their last seven going into the playoffs. But the reason I think the Seahawks can make a run to the Super Bowl is this: They had just 11 turnovers this season, fewest in the NFL, AND they led the league in turnover differential. That means they give opponents few extra possessions and that should help them bleed the clock with that powerful running attack -- especially important against explosive offenses they could face in Los Angeles and New Orleans.
Nick Foles has the Eagles poised for back-to-back Super Bowl runs
I still believe having hot quarterback play and a dominant defensive line is a formula to win, and the Eagles have both. Nick Foles sparked the team's Super Bowl run last season. This year feels no different with Foles heading the team's December surge. The fact that the Eagles got into the tournament at all should scare everyone in the NFC.
Andrew Luck and Co. are firing on all cylinders
We've all waited for Indy to build an offensive line that can protect Andrew Luck. Now they have that, a healthy Luck and a run game. This offense is firing on all cylinders and the entire team shows up to play every week.
Winning on the road has been a specialty for the Chargers
The Chargers have the best chance of the Wild Card Weekend teams to get to Super Bowl LIII. They are 7-1 on the road. They have a complete offense, meaning they can beat you running the ball and throwing it. Philip Rivers is playing at a high level and has shown he can bring a team from behind to win in the fourth quarter. They have beaten Kansas City, the AFC's top seed. They can rush the passer and have a decent secondary.

In the NFC, I don't see anyone going into New Orleans and beating the Saints.
Ravens have what others don't -- Lamar Jackson
Lamar Jackson has completely turned Baltimore's offense around since taking over for Joe Flacco. He has elevated the play of everyone around him and it's resulted in winning six of the last seven games. The Ravens are excelling in all phases of the game at the right time.
If defenses win championships, Chicago could be there at the end
I believe in high-level defenses in the postseason, and the Bears have allowed opponents to reach the end zone a total of TWO times in their last four games (43 drives). They rank No. 1 in points allowed and takeaways, and their four losses have been by a total of 14 points, including three by a field goal or less. Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is a wild card, but I like that the Bears tend to finish drives when they get in scoring position, ranking seventh in red-zone touchdown percentage. Put it all together and you could have a deep playoff run.
Indy is most well-rounded team right now
The Colts are playing the best complementary football right now. In what was essentially a playoff game in Week 17, they went on the road and beat the Titans in all three phases of the game. Winning in a hostile environment is hard to do, especially in the playoffs, but the Colts are built to do just that.
Ravens' powerful run game and defense pose a huge threat
Sometimes having a rookie quarterback can work against you, but no one has figured out how to stop Lamar Jackson. With the Ravens' No. 2 rushing offense paired with the No. 1 overall defense, they have the ability to keep their offense on the field and control the clock. That's a combination no team wants to face.
Print

Related Stories: