Forget Christmas or New Year’s. NFL Wild Card Weekend is as good as it gets during the holiday season.
Maybe you ate too many potatoes or pieces of pie on Christmas Eve. Or maybe Santa didn’t bring you exactly what you wanted the day after. Or maybe you woke up with a wicked hangover from Hades on New Year’s Day. It’s all good.
Wild Card Weekend will bring you everything you’ve ever wanted and more, without any bloating or barfing. So let’s get to it. Breakout Live breaks down all the matchups for Wild Card Weekend in the NFL.
Colts @ Texans
Would anyone actually call Deandre Hopkins underrated? Well, I will. Deandre Hopkins is absolutely, positively, unequivocally underrated. What else would you call a guy who, for 2018, has 115 catches, 11 TDs and Zero – I said ZERO – drops. My man has hands like a Venus Fly Trap. And oh yeah, dude has played in 95 of 96 games in his career. I know WR isn’t exactly a position that gets beat to bits, but this is still the NFL, and Nuk Hopkins is tough as nails. The only other dude that I’d put on his level is Julio Jones, who has started 110 of 111 games. But it’s less about the streak and way more about the speak. And by that I mean, all Nuk does is ball (nod to Julio for the same). He’s not a diva, he doesn’t cause drama, and he doesn’t hurt his team. You can’t say the same about Antonio Brown or Odell Beckham, Jr. and yet I feel like I always hear their names before Nuk’s when it comes to the best in the biz. In the words of Dr. Evil: How about no, Scott?!
Look, the Colts are an incredible story. Luck is the likely Comeback Player of the Year, Darius Leonard is definitely the DROY, and Frank Reich is my pick for Coach of the Year. It’s incredible what they’ve accomplished. But I look at that roster and I just don’t see a ton of talent top to bottom. And I sure as hell don’t see anyone in that Indy secondary who can cover Hopkins.
And speaking of great stories, let me wrap my arbitrary Hopkins love fest by dapping him up in print for pledging his entire $29k playoff game check to help pay for the funeral of Jazmine Barnes, a 7-year-old Houston girl who was killed in a drive-by last Sunday. That’s the real deal right there. And that’s why he’s the best in the game. The Colts deserve a ton of credit, but credit won’t help them stop Nuk or the Texans on Saturday.
Seahawks @ Cowboys
Ezekiel Elliott says the Cowboys have the best defense in the NFL. Is he right? Not really. But they’ve certainly been good enough to carry and offense that’s been woefully inept at times, and I give Zeke credit for the confidence he has in his squad. That’s what the postseason is all about – swagger.
I know Pete Carroll has it. He’s injected more swagger into his team than pretty much any coach in the NFL, and they’ve played way above their talent level in my opinion. Make no mistake: I’m a lifelong Niners fan who hates Seattle. But I’d be more foolish than Mark Davis’ hairpiece to not give Carroll credit for making a mid-season commitment to the run when he realized they couldn’t really throw.
This is a pretty even matchup – one that will likely come down to one or two big plays which will determine the outcome of the game, as so many January battles do. I won’t pretend to know what those plays will be, exactly, but what I do know is that Dallas has way more playmakers that Seattle does. Whether it’s Zeke, Amari Cooper, or my favorite fantastic duo of Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith (i.e. Bertier and Big Ju), somebody’s gonna come up huge for the ‘Boys when it matters most.
Chargers @ Ravens
The Chargers did their absolute best to resurrect the ghosts of seasons past by losing to the Ravens in Week 16 and gifting the division and home-field advantage to the Chiefs. But you know what? I don’t care. I look at that roster and all I see are a bunch of bad dudes. Bosa, Ingram, Derwin, Allen, Melvin – the list goes on. And the list just got a bit longer now that Hunter Henry is set to make his season debut on Sunday. There’s also this bolo tie-wearing, 9-kid having sidearm slinger under center who has been nothing short of brilliant this season in Philip Rivers.
On the other side, Lamar Jackson is set to become the youngest QB to ever start a playoff game. Not bad for a guy who dropped to the last pick of the 1st round in last year’s draft despite obvious once-in-a-generation gifts. The Wild Card slate is filled with intriguing matchups, but I’ll be watching this one more closely than any. The Ravens are a problem and they will be for a while. But the Chargers are the best 5-seed these eyes have ever seen, and I think they’ll put their playoff demons to rest in 2018 and avenge that Week 16 loss with rugged authority.
Eagles @ Bears
It’s too bad that Nick Foles’ last name isn’t Folespatrick, because changing it to “Foles-Magic” would be way more apropos for the Eagles fresh-faced #9 than it is for that dude with the epic face fluff wearing #14 for Tampa. I mean, is this real life? Foles has been nothing short of incredible, and he’s breathed eternal life into an Eagles team that was dead in the water a few weeks back. And as much as I would love to see Foles lead the Eagles to a second-straight Super Bowl and then watch everyone go nuts in the offseason over who the Eagles’ starting QB should be for 2020, it won’t happen.
I don’t trust Mitchell Trubisky to take over a big game, especially against Philly’s dominating D-line, but I do trust Matt Nagy’s ability to scheme some openings for his QB, and I definitely trust Khalil Mack and his new age Monsters of the Midway who will be in Foles’ face all day. This has the feel of the most brutal and low-scoring matchup of the weekend, and what a way to cap it off. I might even go so far as to say this game will be won on a defensive touchdown. In the same way your parents did when you were a kid and they told you Santa wasn’t real, Chicago will end the magic for good.